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The Merit Birds

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  135 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He's angry about his absent dad, he's angry about being angry, and he's angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam's anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with N ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 2nd 2015 by Dundurn Group (first published May 1st 2015)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it

Okay so let's start with the cover.Very intriguing.You can guess by the cover that it is a coming of age story,and a really good one for me.


One of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much was the introduction to a foreign culture for me,and it was so refreshing and even that I had some problems with the book,this aspect of the book drew me and I couldn't put it down.


It's about a boy named Cam who is not in his best mental condition(he is not crazy,he is just so angry all the time)and he mov
Posted at Shelf Inflicted

I read this book while on vacation in Puerto Rico, so it was very easy for me to get accustomed to the tropical climate of Vientiane, Laos and get absorbed by the foreign setting and cast of compelling characters.

There was Cam, an 18-year-old Canadian who is angry about his mother’s decision to change jobs and live in Laos for a year. There was Somchai, Cam’s neighbor and first friend in Laos. There was Nok, a masseuse struggling to support herself and her brother, Seng
Sherwood Smith
Received from NetGalley.

The blurb says:

Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott is angry. He's angry about his absent dad, he's angry about being angry, and he's angry that he has had to give up his Ottawa basketball team to follow his mom to her new job in Vientiane, Laos. However, Cam's anger begins to melt under the Southeast Asian sun as he finds friendship with his neighbour, Somchai, and gradually falls in love with Nok, who teaches him about building merit, or karma, by doing good deeds, such as purch
J.S. Burke
Nov 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in foreign culture and a coming of age story
The Merit Birds is a fascinating book about Cam, an 18-year-old boy who moves with his mother from chilly, familiar Canada to steamy, unfamiliar Laos. Cam is initially full of anger and self-pity. He grows into himself through his friendship experiences and a series of adventures with many totally unexpected twists. Somchai, Nok, and especially Sai teach Cam a new way to see and feel the world. Cam thinks that, “for a small, land-locked country there seemed to be so much space. So much room in a ...more
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The Merit Birds was a novel unlike any I have ever read. I’ve honestly never been interested in many contemporary novels; however, while browsing Netgalley I happened to check this one out. I requested it, and thankfully was given the honor to read it. I never realised how tired I was of sticking to the same genre’s (basically all I read is dystopian and paranormal) but sheesh, this was an eye opener to say the least. I’ve read a fair bit of amazing books this year, and I think it’s fair to say ...more
Bert Powell
Nov 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read blending multiple cultures and environments. A truly educating journey for any youth and adults alike.
joey (thoughts and afterthoughts)
[See the full review at thoughts and afterthoughts.]

Rating: 3.25/5

Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr spoiler-less review:

— A culturally immersive adventure through Laos; from vibrant communities to dingy living environments; akin to like an all-expense paid trip
— A coming-of-age following three perspectives written in first-and-third person; the intermingling of narrative voices in a short book does dilute character growth
— Long stretches of plotting where nothing really happens. Howev
Lakshmi Nagaraj
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was SO. DAMN. HEARTBREAKING. I loved it. It's definitely not a perfect book, it's full of flaws but I love it so much. It was so real. The slow innocent love story felt so intimate and personal. The poverty was so real. The dreams Seng had about America were so relatable. The heartbreak as you find that they're never going to be true was so real. The CULTURE, the stark differences. All the HEARTBREAK. I can't even. Everything felt too real and just felt so personal to me. ...more
This book was not what I expected at all.
That can either man it was betterworse, or in this case, it absolutely stunned me.
Market place in Laos!

The book starts when Cameron (Cam) moves to Laos from Ottawa, Canada because as he likes to say, his mother is at having her midlife crisis. Cam is very flawed, and is even sometimes hard to like. He gets angry easily. He gets aggressive when angry. And he's very bad in holding in his temper. Cam is a senior and goes to an international school in Laos.
Nov 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
Disclaimer, January 2021 (not a re-read)
The toughest thing about having been on Goodreads for over half a decade is how much my opinions have changed. Especially because when I started posting reviews and rating books, I was a teenager with absolutely no taste in books. Had I read The Merit Birds (or really most other books I read in high school) today, it would probably receive a rating closer to 2 stars. I'm keeping my original rating/review for record's sake, but please be aware of the fa
I picked up The Merit Birds because of the mere mention of Laos. I've never read anything about Laos. Heck, I've never really read anything that was set in South East Asia. So when I saw Laos in the lurb and how it seems to go over the culture, it was an insta-read for me.

The Merit Birds is unexpectedly great. At first, I get confused with names and titles such as 'Meh' for mother most likely because I'm not familair with Laos names. But after a couple of chapters, I'm already settled and found
Dec 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arcs-and-galleys
The thing I loved most about The Merit Birds was the setting. Powell crafts a portrait of Laos with a deft hand, offering the reader the sights and smells of a country and a people. We learn about what life is really like there- the political re-education camps, the poverty, the religion, the multi-faceted culture. It is a hard life, having to forsake one's dreams to feed their children and support their family. And it is into this place that 18-year-old Cameron Scott and his mother drop.

Cam's c
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
The good and bad of Laos.

This novel was a fascinating mix of cultures, with Cameron (Cam), a teenage Canadian boy, finding himself whisked away from everything he knew and felt comfortable with, into a new and alien country. Laos gets into his bones in a way he had never expected. The Buddhist religion permeates the Laos way of thinking and behaving, and eventually calms Cameron from the angry person who originally arrived from Canada.

However, a lot happens to get Cam to this point and some inte
Why a booktrail?

A journey into a new culture and a new awareness as one boy moves with his family from Ottawa to Laos..


Eighteen-year-old Cam Scott has a lot to deal with at the moment. His dad is not around and his mum has just accepted a job posting in Vientiane, Laos which means a move halfway across the world. What about his dreams of playing basketball for Ottawa not to mention the strange new culture and life he’s about to have forced on him.

His new life however has some strange effect
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: arc, diversity-ftw
For more reviews, visit Books and Insomnia .

I was just mainly disappointed with this book. The Merit Birds has an interesting premise but sadly, it fell short. I liked that it's culturally diverse; heck, it's even set in Laos! I dived into this book with high expectations because hello?! Diversity right here! I enjoyed the depiction of Laos culture and living in a Southeast Asian country myself, The Merit Birds felt close to home. But halfway through, I was just bored and couldn't care less
Marco Cultrera
Dec 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In The Merit Birds we follow the struggle of Cam, a teenager still in high school, transplanted by his somewhat self-obsessed mother from a normal life in Ottawa, Canada, to a completely foreign environment in the Asian country of Laos.

Powell chooses to write Cam's point of view in the first person, but moves to the third person when tackling the locals, a device that works very well to introduce the reader to the country of Laos from the unique perspective of someone like Cam, who is at first n
Diesel Reads Books
Dec 27, 2014 rated it liked it
Writing style is pretty run of the mill on this one, nothing out of the ordinary to report.

I am not going to say the plot was bad in this book, because I am sure there are people out there who will really enjoy it, but it was not for me.
I felt the story line was slow to start off and it took a long time for anything to really happen.
Then finally when things did start happening, as sad as it sounds, I couldn’t bring myself to care very much.
Personally I never emotionally invested in the charact
Kirsti Call
Jan 02, 2015 rated it liked it
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What I liked: The title and cover for this book are perfect. I love that the book is set in Laos where 18 year old Cam, plagued with a hot temper, learns about who he is and who he wants to be. Cam makes suffers and makes big mistakes and eventually learns to look outside of himself. The story is told from the point of view of a brother and sister in Laos and also Cam, a Canadian who has recently moved to Lao with his self-centered
Dec 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thank you for NetGalley for gave me the copy of this book in return for review

4.5/5 stars I must say
The story was so good! The cultural blend went so smooth. Cam's anger, Nok's fear and Seng's hope felt so real. I live in South East Asia and I still have a feeling that all SEA countries have their own exotisms. So does Laos who became the setting of this book. The released of bird culture to erased bad luck sound amazing. I imagined how the evening sky looked like when Cam released so many birds
Jean-Philippe Veilleux
The Merit Birds is a great read. The flow is good, great mother/son relation, some love intrigue and all that in the beautiful setting that is Laos.

I really loved the final part when the main character is pushed to extremes and how that situation helps him complete his arc. Very refreshing book all in all.
Ampersand Inc.
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: saffron-s-reads
Great read! It really captures the heart of living in Laos; I practically felt drenched by the humidity reading this book. The charcters are really compelling.
Pavitra (For The Love of Fictional Worlds)
The full review will be up soon on For The Love of Fictional Worlds as well as here :) ...more
Sharon Powers
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book Review by:Sharon Powers.
NOTE: If you would like to see the book review with all the graphics you may view them on my blog at:

I grew up in the Sacramento Valley in California. I love driving down the roads smelling the different seasons as they come and go, the rice paddies, the sweet smell of harvest time as the alfalfa is cut, the corn and sunflowers harvested, and the tomatoes shipped off to the cannery.
May 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
This review is chock-full of spoilers. Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.

First of all, there isn't a good character in this entire book. I mean everyone is a horrible person. The only people who aren't horrible are Nok and Somchai and that could be because they don't actually appear that often and we don't really get to know them. Everyone else is just the worst. Who are we supposed to be cheering for in this book anyway?

Secondly, nothing really happens. It takes half the book for the major event to
Full review to come!
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The book, The Merit Birds, takes place in modern times in Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. Laos is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. The main character Cam, has relocated from Ottawa Canada to Vientiane with his mother. Vientiane is hot, described as sauna room hot and dusty from the red clay based roads that intertwine the village. Vientiane has little to none of the modern comforts that Cam is used to, including air conditioning and Western style restrooms. The housing in the village ...more
Originally posted at The Graffiti On The Wall
I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have read books set in places, casting people geographically, ethnically, and culturally contrasting to the author’s. While most of them treaded upon that road which was less travelled by, they did so with a sense of caution. They knew how they were susceptible to errata, and how they could multiply in terms of consequence, however meticulous their data collect
Bruce Gargoyle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was ok
Unsure how I feel about this. On one hand, I love that it's set in Laos and I love how detailed the description of Laos is, detailing the food, the tuktuk vehicles, etc. i also like the depiction of attitudes about mixed race couples, the discrimination poor Lao women face when they date a foreigner, and the resulting caution in going out with one. These all feel realistic and give me a glimpse into a country not often featured in books or movies.

On the other hand, the book is also guilty of som
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was disappointed by this book. The cover is strikingly wonderful and I was very excited to read fiction set in Laos. And to be fair, I did enjoy the setting; and felt to some extent that I could picture it and experience Vientiane through Cam’s eyes.

The major annoyance was the writing style, which was a lot of telling and not much of showing, especially on Cam’s part. I think the book would have been better if it was written entirely in the third person. Seng and Nok’s points of view, which ar
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