Title: Jay Bird
Author: Thomas Grant Bruso
Publisher: JMS Books
Length: 23k Words
At a Glance: Jay Bird had some very nice moments with some beautifully realistic characters and just a touch of romance, but the structural flaws in the timeline and how it affected the plot could not be easily dismissed.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Introverted, socially awkward Jay Kirkman, known to his Grams as “Jay Bird,” is riding the ups-and-downs of youth while living with overbearing parents and dealing with the pressures of being a senior in high school.
A month away from graduation, Jay hopes to flee the small upstate New York town of Milton for a life anywhere but in his dead-end hometown. He wishes for more than he has now: scholarly, eccentric parents, and watching Grams, the closest person to him, slowly dying before his eyes.
His equally withdrawn but edgier best friend Rocco has a hearty appetite for drugs, alcohol, and promiscuous sex. When the law comes knocking, asking questions about a crime Rocco may or may not have committed, he finds himself in big trouble and turns to Jay for help.
Is Jay and Rocco’s friendship strong enough to sustain life’s tough obstacles as they navigate the highs and lows of growing up together?
Review: Jay has known for quite some time he likes boys. Now a month from graduation, he is counting the days until he can be more open with his sexuality and find the boyfriend he so desperately wants. Until then, he has to deal with the fact that the one friend he has always counted on is also the one his parents don’t trust or like. Rocco is so different from Jay—independent, edgy and definitely a bad boy—so it is no surprise that Rocco finds himself embroiled in an incident that could not only change his life but end up sending him to prison. He turns to Jay for help, but when Jay realizes that the timing is just right for Rocco to have done the thing he is under suspicion for, Jay must make the choice to stand by his friend or bail on him as even Rocco’s own parents seem to have done.
Both a coming-of-age and a coming out story, Jay Bird explores what it’s like to live under the watchful eyes of overbearing parents and still remain loyal to a friend who pushes all the boundaries. It doesn’t help that poor Jay is also losing his grandmother to a faulty heart and old age since she seems to be the only one who gets him most of the time. But it’s his complicated relationship with Rocco, his best friend, that often leaves Jay feeling a bit lost and uneasy.
Rocco has always been accepting of Jay and his sexuality, and Jay has always had a tiny bit of a crush on Rocco, something he would never divulge given that Rocco is rather adamant about his never even thinking about guys. In fact, Rocco is known for being a bit of a hound dog with the girls but never committing to any kind of relationship—other than his friendship with Jay. After sharing some pot together late one night, both guys go their own way only for Rocco to be accused the next day of murdering his boss. Jay must piece together the timeline to figure out if Rocco could have indeed done the deed, only to discover there was just enough time for Rocco to potentially have committed the crime. But Jay trusts Rocco, and he stands by him to the end. By the time the police have closed the case not only will Rocco’s life be changed but so will Jays’, for more than one secret will come to the surface.
I really appreciated that the teens in this novel all had a very realistic outlook and personality. These were not your warm and fuzzy teens who lived in the high school theatre and were out and proud, but instead were quirky, secretive, and what I feel were more normal and realistic teens. Sometimes in YA novels you encounter dialogue from teenagers that is way above what one would expect to hear, but, in this case, I felt Mr. Bruso got his characters spot-on. They felt like, acted, spoke and lived like teens, and that made this story feel more honest in the end.
Having liked most of this book, I will say that once again I felt here was a story that needed the hand of a good editor in order to make it gel more perfectly. A lot of this story hinged on timeline, and I got confused pretty often with what day we were on and what time of day it was. I got super confused when Rocco and Jay shared a joint late one night after Rocco got off from work, then Rocco left and Jay went to see his grandmother near midnight, and then came home and at one a.m. Rocco was back knocking on Jay’s window and Jay acted as though hours had passed instead of about ninety minutes. This kind of strange disconnect with time kept up throughout the entire book, and since it was critical that Rocco’s whereabouts hinged on his not being able to commit murder during a certain timeframe, you can see how a lack of attention to that detail could derail a fine story, and it nearly did. Instead, I had to disregard that aspect of the novella and concentrate on how the characters interacted, which meant that, for me, there was a major problem with the overall flow of the story.
Jay Bird had some very nice moments with some beautifully realistic characters and just a touch of romance, but the structural flaws in the timeline and how it affected the plot could not be easily dismissed, which made a potentially excellent read just barely pass muster in the end.
You can buy Jay Bird here:
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