Book Review: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman is a middle grade novel. Twelve-year-old Twig's town in the Berkshires is said to hide a winged beast, the Monster of Sidwell, and the rumors draw as many tourists as the town's famed pink apple orchards. Twig lives in the orchard with her mysterious brother James and her reclusive mother, a baker of irresistible apple pies. Because of a family secret, an ancient curse,Twig has had to isolate herself from other kids. Then a family with two girls, Julia and Agate, moves into the cottage next door. They are descendants of the witch who put the spell on Twig's family. But Julia turns out to be Twig's first true friend, and her ally in trying to undo the curse and smooth the path to true love for Agate and James.

Nightbird is a complex and enchanting book about friendship, family, and secrets. The mysteries surrounding Twig’s family are slowly revealed in the beginning of the book, and the oddities of the town and the important players of the story creep out of the story subtly and sometimes in unexpected ways. I liked that Twig was a multi dimensional character. While she is a typical tween in some ways, struggling with finding her place, friendship, and family, she has additional struggles that I think she handles quite well under the circumstances. Her mother and brother get less time in the book to be fully explored, but do not come across as flat. I really enjoyed the development of friendship and the slow reveals about the family and various relationships that come through out the story. The fear and mob mentality that can rise in a town of scared individuals, as well as the calmer heads that are always trying to do the best they can under the circumstances are timeless. The events of the story, for the most part, are timeless and more about the state of humanity rather than the times we live in. I could easily see these emotions and conflicts arising now, a hundred years ago, or a hundred years from now. I liked that love, friendship, and being honest with yourself and those you care about are the keys to solving the problems and mysteries throughout the book.

Nightbird is a wonderful combination of mystery, magic, and coming into ones own. I think readers from middle grade through adults can all find themselves enthralled with the story, and perhaps a little changed by it. This is magical realism done right.

Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty bestselling works of fiction, including Practical Magic, which was made into a major motion picture starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman; Here on Earth, an Oprah Book club selection; the highly praised historical novel The Dovekeepers; and, most recently, The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Her books for teens include Green Angel, Green Witch, Incantation, The Foretelling, and Aquamarine, also a major motion picture starring Emma Roberts. 
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