Bird Face is a novel about Wendy, an awkward girl who’s not quite blossomed while her best friend, Jennifer, has. Wendy is being raised by a single mom and struggles with finding her place in school since her best friend is being courted by the popular boys and girls. Not to mention Wendy is pestered by John Monster, the class bully and dealing with sticky notes from a mysterious author. But not is all it seems. The leader of the popular girls is hiding a secret, and John has his own monsters to fight. This novel deals with tough issues like eating disorders, divorce, alcoholism, and teen suicide with a great big dose of humor. This story had me at the first hilarious chapter to the end.
While I was spared the trauma of glasses and braces, it didn’t mean I entered my teenage years all cute. For my middle school debut, I looked like a boy with a bad haircut and worse fashion sense. One time I was wearing my navy and gray ski jacket and a salesman kept saying “he”. It took me a while to realize the guy meant me!
Cynthia is one of the founding members of The Scriblerians. She and TJ Akers pulled me in right away so I met Wendy and her best friend Jennifer in the beginning. From then on, Jennifer was the girl I identified with. On the surface, Jennifer is a girl to be envied even by her best friend Wendy. She’s an over-achiever from an affluent two-parent home. A good student who does math for time and a talented dancer who is pretty and attracts the attention of the popular boys and girls. Jennifer wins the leading role in the spring program. She goes away to study ballet for the summer and makes new friends. While Wendy is reserved, Jennifer is outgoing.
Jennifer is kind of an idealized version of me. I was the good student from the middle-class, two-parent home. I was outgoing and had the lead in high school plays. Unlike Jennifer, I can’t sing or dance and I wasn’t exactly popular or one to turn boys heads my direction.
But is Jennifer’s life perfect? We see the story from Wendy’s POV. Jennifer’s mother plans a makeover for Jennifer. To Wendy, it’s a luxury but we don’t know if her mom puts pressure on Jennifer to be stylish. Jennifer is a good student but do her parents demand good grades? Does Jennifer push herself too hard? Wendy hints that Jennifer faces pressure to stay slim in the competitive world of dancing.
Personally, I like to think Jennifer’s story is as Wendy sees it. She has two loving parents who support her. There’s no hint otherwise. But that doesn’t mean all is perfect in Jennifer’s life. School, friends, and boys are a big part of adolescence. Without giving too much away, Jennifer stars opposite a cute boy and even seems to gain his attention. Whether or Jennifer is into him isn’t mentioned, but it’s not Jennifer who gets the boy. Story of my teenage years. Here’s how it typically went for me: I liked a boy. He found out. He ended up liking one of my friends. The thing is Jennifer’s place in the world may have expanded beyond Wendy, but her loyalty to her best friend remains.
If you’ve read Bird Face, which character do you identify with?
Did you ever have a friend that was part of a different crowd? How did that affect your friendship?