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Silhouette of a Sparrow

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  1,790 ratings  ·  242 reviews
In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology and visiting the famous new amusement park--a summer of fun before she returns for her final year of high school, after which she’s expected to marry a nice boy and settle into middle-class homemaki ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published September 11th 2012 by Milkweed Editions (first published April 10th 2012)
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Average rating 3.73  · 
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 ·  1,790 ratings  ·  242 reviews

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I think Molly Beth Griffin’s novel Silhouette of a Sparrow might just be the best lesbian young adult novel I’ve ever read. I don’t say that lightly. It has everything I could hope for: effortless yet beautiful writing, an authentic and lovable young heroine, a subtle and moving romance, an environmentalist sub-plot—honestly, what more could you ask for? I think, though, that what I appreciated the most about this book is that, while the romance is cute and sexy and authentic and great, it wasn’ ...more
Dov Zeller
When I saw this book on GR I was excited to read queer YA with some solid female characters, and I wasn't disappointed. Well, the book wasn't great, but I'm glad it's out there. There is interesting historical and conservational stuff in it. There are birds (I like birds). I enjoyed reading the author's end-note about her research and what in the book is based on historical stuff (and how writing the book sparked in her a passion for birding.) The cover is stellar.

I would say there are a few di
Катя Czaja
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A coming of age story set in the 20′s, Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin is a little bit Member of the Wedding (evocative of a time and place) and a little bit Fried Green Tomatoes (a budding relationship between two young women looking to assert themselves). It is charming and beautifully written. This book would be a great historical fiction accompaniment to a High School unit on the roaring 20’s or women’s changing roles in American history.

Gigi struggles to balance her family’s t
Nov 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: glbtq, historical, rev, ya
I love the IDEA of this book. There should absolutely be more YA historical books with lesbian protagonists. But in actuality, I just found this book boring. It did a lot of telling rather than showing. In one instance, a revelation about another character is followed by the narrator's reflection that "now there was an interesting complexity to her character and her situation." Yes, thank you, I get that, no need to drive it home.
Emilia P
Oct 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Tipping the Velvet PG! In Minnesota! Written by a Grinnellian!
The story of a bird-lover and the flapper she befriends/loves while in the resort town of Excelsior, Minnesota.
Also it's kind of weird to read after reading so much contemporarily-eraed Betsy-Tacy, which, obviously, has no lesbians.

Basically, I loved this. It read really quickly, and really gently. Griffin is a lyricist, and I found myself teary-eyed a bunch of times without quite knowing how I got that way. Which, to me, says the wr
Silhouette of a Sparrow is a quiet little LGBT coming of age story, set in... the 1920s or so? Garnet, the main character, has a passion for birds, a vague hope of going to college, and a summer to spend away from her family. She falls in love with a flapper, decides not to marry the boy who's waiting for her back home, and sets her sights on going to college.

While there is drama in the story -- Hannah's outburst at her mother, thunder and hail storms, even a fire in the hotel where Garnet is st
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
This gets a little extra goodwill for being historical fiction with a lesbian protagonist--something I absolutely think we need to see more of. And it isn't a terrible book at all. But it is disappointing: dull where it should sparkle, matter-of-fact where it should be delicately devastating. As a result I felt increasingly detached from the narrative, watching conflicts and resolutions drift by (and too quickly) without much emotional investment. Even when I wanted to weep or cheer for the char ...more
amy boese
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2013
I'm adding an extra star for this being a great addition to queer literature for teens in the form of a well written historical lesbian romance. It is set in Minnesota, which made me squee with joy at least once.

I didn't dislike anything about the book but there is some intensity missing, some spark that would turn my like for this well crafted little book into love.
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Where was this incredible story when I was a confused teenager discovering my strange and beautiful self? Either way, I’m so incredibly glad I’ve experienced it now. Absolutely heartwarming and desperately honest. A gift to all young queer women learning about the power of the love they can give as well as the gift of love received.
Silhouette of a Sparrow was an interesting book for young adults published by Milkweed Editions, a small independent publisher. I received a review copy from them. Set in the 1920s, sixteen year old Garnet wants nothing more than to become a scientist and study birds, but her mother has her life all planned: after high school, she'll marry and be a housewife. Garnet is sent away for the summer to stay with relatives at a lakeside resort, and she finds a chance to bloom. There is an amusement par ...more
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a charming little book. In 1920s America, a high school aged girl named Garnet is sent to spend the summer out in the country with relatives, ostensibly to prevent her from catching polio in the city. (Really, it's to get her away from her father, who has Never Been The Same After The War, in the hopes that some time alone with his wife will perk him up. Hey, it's a thought.) Lesbianism happens - (view spoiler) ...more
Crystal Bandel
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin, published 2012.

Historical fiction.


Grades 9-12.

Found via Publishers Weekly, reviewer not credited.

In 1926, 16-year-old Garnet goes to spend the summer with her aunt and cousin while her mother tries to help her father overcome his issues post-WWI. Though Garnet's aunt insists she act proper, Garnet manages to acquire a job at a hat shop, and she spends her free time cutting out silhouettes of birds—her one concession to her childhood love of or
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I didn't have high hopes for this book when I checked it out on a whim. Historical LGBT lit has a tendency to be breathtakingly depressing, given the times its set in, but this manages to skirt that while still maintaining an honesty to the period. I enjoyed Garnet's point of view. She had a nice blend of Interesting Heroine personality quirks and typical ladylike things of the day - like being good at sewing, or being shocked by pants. It made her feel more realistic and also made her character ...more
Dec 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
A beautifully-written, sweet YA novel about an ornithology-loving girl who feels trapped by the sexist conventions of her time, until she meets an alluring flapper named Isabella. I had trouble believing in the book's 1920s setting, but I can't pinpoint why.
Also, wow, the lovely cover!
There's nothing technically wrong with Silhouette of a Sparrow, but there's nothing technically right about it either. Griffin can turn a fine sentence, and some of the passages in the book are truly lovely, but any edge granted by her prose style is undone by her frankly horrific character work. Silhouette knows all the beats that make a character arc, but fails to actually write character in a remotely convincing way.

The plot is simple enough, and there's nothing particularly wrong with it, bu
May 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, z-2017, ya, lgbtq, reviewed
It's the 1920s, and the world is changing, but Garnet's family wishes otherwise. Their expectations are clear: she'll marry, with or without finishing high school, and settle into domestic life. Ideally, she'll marry well enough to support her family, if need be.

Garnet knows this, and she wants to do right by her family. But it's summer, and she's away from home, and she's learning what she really wants: she wants to finish high school and go on to college. She wants to work before or as well as
Stephanie A.
Beautiful depiction of a 1920s Minnesota summer resort town, even if I did spend most of it feeling entirely lukewarm about the romance, with a side of "...why are you getting naked with someone you literally met a month ago."
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
This was cute. Nothing to write home about, but it's a quick read about two queer girls in the 1920s, with the protagonist going through a lot of personal growth and trying to find herself in a changing society. I like queer historical fiction and need more of it.
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a sweet, simple historical YA lesbian romance. What's not to love? I'm just sad it was so short.
Claire (Book Blog Bird)
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Completely adorable. This book was quite short and the plot skipped along very quickly, but there was some great characterisation and a really beautiful romance. Just lovely.
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Another YA book by a Grinnellian! Take over the teen publishing industry please Grinnell, you do it right. I probably would not have picked this book up except out of Grinnell pride, but I really enjoyed it. It's a historical (1920s) novel that's well-researched without reading like it's just regurgitating facts. And I'm so happy to see a queer historical romance! I took history of women at Grinnell, I know there were lesbians before the 1970s. And here are some in a book! It's weirdly both fast ...more
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Every now and then I come across a book that inspires me to read more, write more, live more, see more, love more, look more...all of that.
This was one of those books. I told my friend once I closed the covers, "I just read a book that is going to give me the strength to get through the next stage of my life", and I meant it.

This coming of age story is lyrically written.
I don't like reviews that tell what a book is about, so i won't do that either, but I will say what types of readers will li
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teens, lesbian teens, queer teens, quick reads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Wow, this is actually the first f/f romance I've ever read. I've read a fair amount of of m/m, but f/f is a first for me. And I'm glad I took a chance and tried something different

Garnet's cool. She's relatable and I just really like her. At first I thought Isabella was too perfect. But as we get to know her, her flaws and vulnerabilities and struggles are revealed. Made her more realistic and I appreciate it.

Obviously I like the romance. It's very sweet and it's built on friendship and I just
Oct 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
I wanted to love this book. I didn't. It felt thin to me: gaps in action; too many coincidences (nonchalant guardian, convenient hailstorms providing jobs, convenient fires providing climax) to make it believable; a gay flapper just when the main character is floundering with her own identity. The list goes on. And on top of that, it felt condescending. Teens can take complex characters and complex plots. Don't simplify for them. I was disappointed.
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book was so sweet and light! However, the story isn't fluffy in a dismissive way - it's a definite coming-of-age tale that involves hard choices. Yet told so gently, it was easy to feel comforted even during the chapters with conflict. You just know that everything will work out in the end. The vocabulary and dialogue reflected the manners of the 1920s, with the focus on every proper word and refined behavior. BUT OH THE KISSING!
A quick and fun read and definitely above average for queer YA lit. It's a small story, but that's part of why I liked it so much. The characters garner affection easily, and although I knew they would all be happy in the end, I was invested in their story. An easy recommendation.
Cathy Hartle
The main character, 16 year-old Garnet, grabbed ahold of me early on. Her gutsy way of exploring life and figuring herself out in the. 1920's made for a fun read. I loved the silhouette story thread throughout.
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From Molly Beth Griffin's Website: "I am a graduate of Hamline University's MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and a writing teacher at the Loft Literary Center in the Twin Cities. ... Though my writing reaches across all age groups and genres, it all demonstrates my passion for exploring young people's changing relationship to the natural world."

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