Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Meaning of Birds

Rate this book
Before, Jessica has always struggled with anger issues, but come sophomore year that all changes when Vivi crashes into her life. As their relationship blossoms, Vivi not only helps Jess deal with her pain, she also encourages her to embrace her talent as an artist. And for the first time, it feels like the future is filled with possibilities. After In the midst of senior year, Jess’s perfect world is erased when Vivi suddenly passes away. Reeling from the devastating loss, Jess pushes everyone away, and throws out her plans to go to art school. Because art is Vivi and Vivi is gone forever.

Desperate for an escape, Jess gets consumed in her work-study program, letting all of her dreams die. Until she makes an unexpected new friend who shows her a new way to channel her anger, passion, and creativity. Although Jess may never draw again, if she can find a way to heal and room in her heart, she just might be able to forge a new path for herself without Vivi.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published April 16, 2019

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jaye Robin Brown

9 books447 followers
Jaye Robin Brown, or JRo to her friends, has been many things in her life--jeweler, mediator, high school art teacher--but now writes full-time. She lives with her wife, dogs, cats, and horses in a sweet house in NC horse country where she hopes to live happily ever after. She is the author of young adult novels, NO PLACE TO FALL, WILL'S STORY, GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, THE MEANING OF BIRDS, and THE KEY TO YOU AND ME. In 2022 she released her first adult novel, FIVE MONTHS OR FOREVER.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
631 (30%)
4 stars
785 (37%)
3 stars
495 (23%)
2 stars
128 (6%)
1 star
46 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 384 reviews
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
Shelved as 'zzzzz-coverporn-etc'
August 18, 2018
this cover is the gayest thing i've ever seen in my life, it even perfectly represents the fashion style of 97% of the sapphics I know Including Myself
Profile Image for ellie.
544 reviews165 followers
Want to read
June 21, 2018
this book is gay culture, and so am i. that’s it. thanks for coming to my ted talk.
Profile Image for - ̗̀  jess  ̖́-.
582 reviews276 followers
April 25, 2019
This book was so hard to read. Not because it was bad, but because it dealt with grief and the aftermath of loss. Jaye Robin Brown writes a really emotional, moving story about dealing with compounded grief - which is, like, really hard to deal with.

I related to Jess so much, honestly; I don't struggle with anger management, and I've never lost a girlfriend or close friend. But I can understand her reactions and lashing out and isolating herself because I've been in such a similar place before. The Meaning of Birds doesn't skimp on how Jess struggles with everything after losing Vivi, and I could sympathize entirely with how hard it is to readjust to normal life and how Jess feels like she shouldn't be happy without Vivi. A lot of the side characters frustrated me, though; it felt like they were pressuring Jess to just "move on" from Vivi's death, Levi especially.

I really adored Jess and Vivi's relationship, though - they were incredibly cute, and I felt Jess's love for Vivi and how painful it was for her to lose Vivi. Usually I'm not fond of books that constantly go between the past and the present, but I think it worked really well for this book. It showed Jess's life with Vivi and how happy they both were, and contrasted it to after Vivi and Jess learning to find her way without Vivi. Here, I feel like the flashbacks added more of an emotional punch to the book than if it had just been divided into two sections.

One thing I liked is that The Meaning of Birds showed compounded grief, which is when a person experiences loss without really recovering from previous loss, and it isn't something that you see in YA too often. Jess's father had passed several years before Vivi, and her feelings about both get tangled up. I definitely think there are teens out there who might find this book helpful in knowing they're not alone. Losing one person can dredge up old feelings, and I don't think that's talked about enough, in YA or anywhere. The book doesn't prescribe some deeper meaning to death. Sometimes people die for no reason at all, seemingly out of the blue, and there's no pretending otherwise in this book.

Another part that I felt was really important was how art was talked about as something that was both painful yet a way to cope. Jess is an artist, but after Vivi's death, art is too painful for her to do, so she turns to blacksmithing instead as another art form, which was really neat. I also loved Greer and Eliza; they were probably my favourite side characters. We love adorable supportive lesbians. But Jess's blooming interest in blacksmithing shows that it's possible to find new, healthy things you enjoy after a loss. I really understood Jess's feelings around art after Vivi died, and it was good to see her accept that it's okay to grow and change.

There were a few things I felt were a tad questionable that took away from my experience of reading it. A couple off-hand comments about asexuality, bi/pansexuality, and trans women that rubbed me the wrong way, for example. These comments are not directly a/bi/trans-phobic, but it struck me as a bit iffy, especially because some of Jess's views were never really addressed or challenged, and they were casual comments that didn't add much to the story altogether.

Yes, this is a tragic book about a young lesbian losing her girlfriend, but it shows her learning to cope with it, even if there's no "getting over" it. I think a lot of teens dealing with loss of all types could use this book. However, anyone who reads this should definitely have some tissues nearby, because--as you'd expect--it is horribly sad.

content warnings: death of a parent, death of a loved one, grief

Thanks to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Profile Image for John Gilbert.
867 reviews94 followers
January 13, 2023
This is a book about grief. How each one of us deals with grief differently, which often upsets others whom will always deal with grief on their own, rarely the same as their friends and family.

Jess and Vivi fall in love in high school, Vivi loves birds, Jess is a budding artist. Vivi dies unexpectedly from a virus combined with her asthma, Jess does not deal with this well. Already reeling with the death of her father previously, Jess's main way of dealing with it all is anger and striking out, couched in denial and cutting off from all her friends and family.

I really like how Ms Brown dealt with the entire issue. The fact that Jess and Vivi loved each other was a non issue, with their families and friends, but the anger and its manifestation, was the problem. A very important issue, well dealt with I thought, was a really good read for me. Good stuff.
Profile Image for Cassie.
343 reviews65 followers
June 28, 2020
”Stepping forward doesn’t mean I let her go. It means I take her with me.”

This is the type of story that will stick with you for many moons after you’ve finished reading the last of its beautifully crafted words.

The Meaning of Birds is a story about love, loss, grief, and emotions. Lots and lots of emotions.

Going on this journey with Jess was a journey that I won’t be able to forget for quite some time. It was filled with sadness, but even more so it was filled with a lot of hope. That no matter how you deal with grief, you can and will be okay. It won’t happen overnight, that’s for sure, but it will be a step by step process in which grief will show that in the end, everything will be okay. This story shows you how to treat grief as an old friend. Acknowledge it, even hug it if you have to, but tuck it away and find the hope you need to be okay.

I highly recommend this if you need something that will make you feel emotions, but also guide you towards knowing that no matter what you’ve had to deal with, you’re here fighting the fight and you can make it through anything. Jayne Robin Brown believes in you, and so do I.
Profile Image for Lea (drumsofautumn).
619 reviews627 followers
October 19, 2019

The Meaning of Birds is a really beautiful, atmospheric Contemporary about first love, grief and how to continue life after losing the person you thought you'd be with forever.

“Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the point is not to stop doing the things that remind me of Vivi, but to find a way to ensure she lives through me, even if the future we painted together has been permanently gessoed over.”

I loved the way the story was structured. We get the story of how Jess and Vivi fall in love, alternating with the chapters after Vivi's death. I really loved that the story was structured like that because it gave us a chance to really experience the development of the relationship between Jess and Vivi, seeing them fall in love and their everyday life, while also fulling diving into the grief that Jess experiences.
And I thought it was very nice that the book chronicles basically their whole relationship to the point when Vivi dies. It almost felt like we were reflectiong and processing all of this along with Jess.

When I finished this book, I immediately thought that this has got to be inspired by a recent experience the author went through, which got confirmed in the author's note. And you could really feel that. The way Brown wrote about grief, living with it, trying to forget it, wallowing in it, all those different stages you go through were brilliantly written and really made you feel for the character.

I love stories about people grieving and trying to redefine their relationship with something that they loved and that connected them to the person they're grieving. Jess is struggling with drawing because Vivi was the person to really motivate her to take art more seriously and even pursue it professionally. The development of this aspect was really lovely, as it showed the reality of it being so hard to still enjoy that thing while also showing that there are ways to rediscover your love for it and eventually even use it to help you deal with the grief.

“Part of me wants to tell him the truth, that drawing, creating, is Vivi, is me, is life, is death, is everything all rolled away like a rock over a crevice. I'm not ready to let her go yet. And if I start to find a way to live, to work on the work of moving on, she might truly disappear.”

We have a diverse cast of characters that I really loved. There's several people of colour and queer characters, one side-character is a-spec (but doesn't wanna use labels). The queer aspect is ownvoices.
There are so many different kinds of characters that we get to know during this story and all of them really add something important to Jess's storyline. I especially loved the two gay women that Jess ends up working with. Having this gay married couple be such an important part of the storyline gave me all kinds of feels.
Jess as a main character is amazing and so, so flawed. She has anger issues and was in therapy for it but after Vivi's death this really flares up again. So we see her cope with her grief in some not so healthy ways, also including alcohol and weed, and just some other impulsive actions but I loved this aspect. It was so realistic, valid and relatable.

“As I start grinding the ivory paint off the metal, I feel a few of my own layers shed away. Stepping forward doesn't mean I let her go. It means I take her with me. Every piece I create can contain some piece of the Vivi I knew and loved.”

Overall I'd highly recommend this book. I know for many it is hard to read about queer grief and pain but I thought it was handled very well! If you like sad contemporaries that still leave you with a good message, this is the book for you.

Trigger and content warnings for homophobia, grief, loss of a loved one, suicidal thoughts, sexual assault, transphobia.

Booktube ChannelTwitterInstagram

I received an ARC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review!
August 11, 2018
full review on my blog

ARC kindly provided by Harper Teen in exchange for an honest review.

Content warning: homophobia, grief/loss of a loved one, sexual assault, repetitive use of the d slur, transphobia

I was apprehensive about picking this up because the author’s other novel, Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruits, had ableist themes that went ignored by a lot of reviewers. However, I was willing to give Brown another chance since I want to continue supporting sapphic novels (and the stunning cover doesn’t hurt either).

The Meaning of Birds has alternating chapters: before – when Jess meets and falls for a girl named Vivi – and after – where Jess is drowning in grief after Vivi unexpectedly passes away. This story deals with grief and how certain individuals cope with it after a loved one leaves them.

Jess’ story is heightened by her anger issues, where she lashes out and is subsequently unapologetic. After losing Vivi, Jess pushes away her mother, sister, and best friend who are only trying to help her move on from this tragedy.

I’d recommend this to fans of John Green since this is essentially a sapphic version of his books. I know this has a deeper meaning to it where people push their loved ones away and lie in bed when they’re dealing with grief, but this was just uneventful and stale.
Profile Image for Ashley.
571 reviews62 followers
March 29, 2019
cw: transphobia, homophobia, loss of a loved one, grief, death, alcohol use, drug use, sexual assault, fat shaming, ace/arophobia,

The story:

So there were a bunch of things I liked about this book and also a bunch of things I did not like. The general concept of the story and the writing structure was super good to me. Basically, this story is about Jess and her relationship with her girlfriend Vivi. Vivi unexpectedly dies from an illness and this story follows two separate timelines: before and after. The before timelines starts when the two meet in class and the after timeline is maybe a week after Vivi dies? It’s about Jess grieving both her relationship and the girl she loved for years. It’s heartbreaking and hard to read at times. I really liked how this story was written and specifically the structure of the dual timelines. You read back and forth every couple chapters and it really gives more depth to their relationship and the main character.

What I liked:

I haven’t experienced a loss anywhere near was Jess experienced, so I didn’t directly relate to this experience, but from my perspective this depiction of grief was really good and definitely hard to read at times. Jess moves through her grief in slow stages. She makes some bad decisions and definitely does some intentional self-sabotaging. Jess has anger issues and this is definitely affects how she makes decisions and how she lives her life. I don’t know if this is an accurate representation of anger issues to this degree, but to me it never seemed outrageous or fake. She has a hard time moving through the grief and tries to hold on to it as long as she can. It definitely affects the relationships in her life negatively.

There was a very diverse set of characters in this book and I think it added a lot to the story. Jess is a lesbian and latina with anger issues and Vivi is probably either bi or pan with asthma. Jess’s friend Chayenne is probably aspec, but it wasn’t exactly confirmed on page. There is another mention of a trans character, but they aren’t included in any of the scenes. There’s another f/f relationship with one of the characters being a mentor for Jess and I loved their relationship.

I loved the depiction of art and artists in here. I especially loved how Jess used creativity and art to calm her anger impulses. Both her therapist and Vivi pushed her to put more into her art, and after Vivi was gone she couldn’t find the strength to open up that part of herself again. I really liked how the theme of art moved through the story and changed with Jess as she moved through her grief.

I think a really interesting part of this book is how apparent it was how much she relied on Vivi in their relationship. She really shut down after Vivi died and decided to close off all the parts that reminded her of Vivi. Vivi calmed her down when she was angry, so she fought instead. Vivi encouraged her to pursue her art, so she decided she was done. Because Vivi was gone, she decided to stop because she wasn’t willing to move forward without her. As she moves through her grief she learns how to rely more on herself which is really cool. I know she didn’t really have a choice in the matter, but I was happy when she made it to the other side and was able to live again.

What I didn’t like:

Ahhh there were so many unnecessary and triggering things in this book. Yes, I know that some books deal with upsetting content and that is totally fine. I really don’t have a problem with that and I think those books are important. There were just some statements in here that made me feel kind of gross while reading them.

At one point the main character really wants to have get physical with her girlfriend when her girlfriend is obviously not ready and has said so multiple times. While this is going on she’s thinking something along the lines of “I’ll try to finagle some consent.” Ahhh I really felt weird about it when I read it. Like, yea she uses the word “consent” but “finagle”? To me that sounds like trying to elicit verbal consent when she’s already firmly said no. I don’t know if that’s how the author meant it to sound, but to me it was really weird and I did not like it at all. Later on in the same scene, she says she’s willing to wait and there’s no pressure to do anything, but the previous comment really struck me and it’s all I could think about. I did read an early copy, so hopefully this was taken out, or the wording was changed to make it sounds less gross.

When the main character is grieving later on in the book she ends up kissing another male character. The way it read made it seem like she was okay with it specifically because she was a lesbian and he was a boy so “she wasn’t cheating” on her dead girlfriend. Like I get this is complicated and that grieving makes you do some weird things, but the idea that that’s not cheating because she’s only into girls is so messed up. I get that she wasn’t cheating regardless because her girlfriend has since passed, but just writing that then never addressing it again later seems really weird and gross to me? On multiple levels.They do reference what she did was wrong, but they framed it like it was wrong because she was leading on the male character not because of any other reason. I don’t know maybe I’m thinking too deep into this, but regardless not my favorite part of this book.

There are some other instances of messed up comments that include transphobia, fat-shaming and ace/arophobia.

I understand a lot of these issues are not necessarily bad in books. I look book that tackle hard topics. The real problem for me in this case is that they were mentioned or said, but never really addressed or unpacked? Like they would happen and they’re obviously messed up, but the story would just continue and it was never brought up again. I think it’s important to address issues like these because if there are young teens reading this book they might take those statements to heart and, ultimately it could be harmful.

Some of the people who said these messed up statements were even main characters or side characters, so it’s not like they are necessarily the villains of this story. Yes, people have issues and people mess up. 100% true. But if you’re going to write these things in, they should be held accountable more than just “I was being a bitch” Like. No.

I read another review of this book saying they thought it was “messy” and I completely agree. The overall structure is so so good! There are just some problematic things in there that could have been omitted or even just addressed, and it would be 100x better in my eyes.

I feel like there was more I could have said about this one, but I’ve already word-vomited far too much.

Read if you like:
The depiction of grief
Depiction of anger issues
Complicated relationships with friends/family
Heartbreaking love story
Diverse cast of characters
Books about art/artists
Profile Image for - ̗̀ DANY  ̖́- (danyreads).
257 reviews93 followers
April 13, 2019
. : ☾⋆ — 4 ★


ARC provided from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review (thank you HarperTeen & HarperCollins!!)

here’s the gist of it, guys and gals: The Meaning of Birds is everything History is All You Left Me wanted to be, but better. and also sapphic.

I love everything about this book. I love that it’s about a realistic and complex journey through grief, I love the genuine growth we see in Jess from the first chapter to the last one, I love that we get those alternating chapters where we learn about her’s and Vivi’s story but that the book doesn’t entirely focus on the romance, I love that at one point or another Jess questions her sexuality (because sexuality is a spectrum and life is confusing and surprising sometimes), I love that Jess doesn’t take on her grieving journey alone and that we actually see her engage in activities that will help her come out of her funk alongside characters who are not all teenagers, I love that she finds happiness in unexpected places and unexpected people. I LOVE THAT THIS IS GENUINELY A BOOK ABOUT GRIEF AND GROWTH AND NOT ABOUT ROMANCE.

this book is emotional and Jess is messy and flawed but she’s HUMAN and I love that about her. Jaye Robin Brown did an amazing job with The Meaning of Birds. after reading her author’s note and finding out that this book came partly from her personal experience, I can’t help but look at her characters and her writing and admire her all the more for it. in my eyes, everything about The Meaning of Birds book is stunning. thanks again to HarperTeen and HarperCollins for providing a free copy of this book!!
Profile Image for Emily (emilykatereads).
401 reviews297 followers
April 11, 2019
Oh my god, has this book got me in a web of feelings. It broke my heart over and over again, while simultaneously filling it with fluff and happiness. And then to top it all off, rage at how problematic some of it was that I wanted to just throw this book across the room and give up with it.

But I couldn’t give up. I was absolutely hooked. I fell in love with Jess and Vivi’s story, but I’m also here to tell you that there’s some big fuckin red flags in this book that made me really hella uncomfortable to read. But here I am, having finished this book in a sitting.

So, as usual, I’ll start with the positives of this book. I absolutely loved the timeline and how it was broken into alternating before and after sections. It really hit hard in the feels as you get glimpses into the romance then to be slapped back into the grieving.

I loved loved loved Greer and how alternative art forms were included in the story. Blacksmithing. How often do you hear about something as cool as blacksmithing in a book? Also, along with this, by the end Jess was giving alternate schooling such a good attitude and it’s great to see people look at alternative learning and learning trades as something good. It shouldn’t be just for the kids kicked out of their “regular” school or for kids in trouble with the law. Some people are talented in ways that don’t fall in the traditional school curriculum. Let people choose the path that suits them best. But then the book also flipped on the good representation of this, because everyone was all “oh staying here isn’t good for you” and how she’s surrounded by bad influences. Meanwhile it’s the place that sets her life back on track in a positive way.

I loved the romance between Jess and Vivi. I hated how jealousy became a big thing at one point, but it was mildly remedied with an apology, but overall the romance was super sweet and enjoyable to read.

And then…
I feel like I could write an essay on what’s wrong with the book too. And most of it comes from shitty comments from Jess that aren’t challenged by the narrative.

1) Jess is continually mean to Chey about her not being romantically into anyone. The narrative acknowledges and alludes to her very likely being asexual/aromantic, but Jess continually harasses Chey for “leading him on” and joking about him being her boyfriend even though Chey clearly asks her to stop. This isn’t cool. Jess is outright disrespecting Chey’s potential orientation and she never apologizes.

2) Jess criticizes Vivi for being open to the idea of being with a man (not in a cheating situation, in a sexuality situation). The text never states her sexuality, but she’s either bi/pan with her explaining she’s into a person, irrelevant of gender. But Jess is disgusted by this and gives her a hard time about this.

3) Proceeding this convo, Vivi then makes a comment about there being “substitutes to satisfy her curiousity.” Wow. So first Jess is negative about Vivi being strictly gay, and then they give in to the problematic idea that bi women have a “curiosity” that needs to be “satisfied.” No. Bi women are just as valid when in a same-sex relationship, and it doesn’t mean that just because she’d be with another gender means that she has some deep-seated curiosity that isn’t going to be met if she doesn’t end up with a man. There’s so much shit in the LGBTQ+ community already towards bi people, let’s not contribute more to it pls.

4) I wish I saved quotes for this one. But basically after Vivi dies, Jess obviously isn’t ready for a relationship. But she makes so many internal comments, and leads Levi on, and thinks that if she has a thing with a guy… that it doesn’t count?? She thinks being with another woman is like cheating on Vivi, but if she makes out with Levi, it’s not the same thing?? What??? So first, you criticize the girl for being also into other genders, and then you engage in activities with men. And get this!! The NARRATIVE NEVER CRITICIZES HER FOR THIS. If it was challenged, it’s one thing. But it’s not. The only problem apparently is that she’d be leading him on. Not that she thinks being with a different gender makes it an exception. (Ok so obviously she isn’t cheating on Vivi, but it’s just problematic that she thinks getting with a different gender makes it okay. It’s like perpetuating the idea that bi people are more likely to cheat because it’s “okay if it’s with another gender.” No. Cheating is cheating. She’s not cheating here, just the mindset around it is fucked.)

5) So before their anniversary, Jess and Vivi had talked about sex. Vivi clearly states she isn’t comfortable going there yet and Jess says aloud that she is willing to wait, BUT internally, there is a line about her trying to “finagle to some consent.” This. Isn’t. How. Consent. Works. Reading this line in a YA book made me SO uncomfortable. The words “finagle” and “consent” shouldn’t be in the same sentence. Yeah, you may get her to say “yes” outloud if you’ve coerced her, but she’s already stated clearly that she’s not ready. That’s wrong. (They don’t end up having sex. But this comment alone sucks enough to ruin the scene. If they had sex, I probably would’ve thrown this book into a fire.)

6) My last one for now, is that Jess literally says she’s “going for the gold-star” as in being a “gold-star gay.” This makes me SO mad. So, this comes up after her thing with Levi, and whether or not he can tell people what happened with them. And she makes it clear she doesn't want people to know, because she's going for the GOLD-STAR. For those who don't know, I don't know how common this still is, but people would use the term "gold-star gay" to mean they've never been with anyone other than the same-sex. Which is so fucked. It's like if you had been with another gender at some point, that it belittles you and that you're not as "gay" as another gay person who's only been with the same-sex. Let me tell you. We don't need this kind of attitude within the queer community. I actually didn't know what this term meant until I faced it myself with people giving me a hard time about how I wasn't a gold-star gay and they were. Like okay, yeah, I questioned and wasn't sure of my sexuality until a later age than you, so that now makes my identity not as solid as someone elses? Like I'm pretty fucking gay, but apparently less than others who haven't been with anyone other than the same-sex. UGH.

I'm so worked up after writing this, and honestly my initial response to finishing this book was 4-star. Because it was a pleasant read (but I also binge read and didn't give myself the time to be mad about the things I'm mad at. I wrote them down quickly to come back to later and see if these issues would be remedied or not, and they weren't. So now is when I get mad).

So, now that I've thoroughly thought through how I feel about it, I morally cannot give this more than 2 stars. This few issues I have with it aren't minor. Some of these issues are things that perpetuate so much hate still within the LGBTQ+ community and I can't get behind that. I absolutely wanted to love this book, because hell yEAH I wanted a cute queer but heartbreaking story, but I just can't do it.

NOTE: Any lines pulled are from the arc. Some things might, I hope, be changed to be less problematic. If you've read a finished copy, please let me know if any of these are remedied, because I really really wanted to love this!

Review can also be found on my blog!

*Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.*
Profile Image for Dahlia.
Author 19 books2,393 followers
November 30, 2018
Oh man, I cried a few times at this. Jess's grief was just so palpable, and you really felt the life that she and Vivi expected to make together. And I like that Jess was an angry girl; I feel like girls don't get to be irrationally* angry in YA. The blacksmithing, having a mentor who was also sort of a window into what her relationship might've looked like someday, and the fact that she was iffy on college were all nice touches you don't see a lot. I went into this book assuming it was a Romance, and it's decidedly not - just a heads-up to anyone else who doesn't really read blurbs and just kinda dives in with preconceived cover-based notions; it is, though, a really special grieving book, and think if you're looking for something similar to History is All You Left Me but in a Sapphic version, this is the book for you.

*Not that I think her anger is literally irrational - of course its borne of grief - but it was obviously at an unusually high level and often misdirected.

Profile Image for meher !.
77 reviews
Want to read
December 2, 2020
this sounds like it's going to be sad as heck
and you know me- i need to inflict post-reading sadness onto myself :)
Profile Image for Ellie.
575 reviews2,117 followers
March 30, 2019
"Oh god. Stork rhymes with dork. Which I am. Because there’s no way you wanted all that trivia. Sorry, I’m ridiculously into birds. It’s a sickness.”

me [before reading]: you betcha I’m ready for some soft sapphic goodness!!

me [after reading]: oh my god my emotions holy shit this book was not as fluffy as expected where are the fucking tissues

I really loved this book! It was beautifully drawn look at grief, filled with a great cast. Greer and Eliza (an older lesbian couple who come in partway through the book) were my absolute favourites. I especially liked the feature of blacksmithing, because I love when alternate art forms are utilised in books.

The book follows two narratives: “before” and “after”. checking the chapter headings is crucial as you are switched back and forth a bit. Jess and Vivi had a really lovely, and what I thought very realistic, relationship.

The only bit I didn’t like was the treatment of the best friend at points; she’s aromantic and I felt sometimes she was ... teased a little for not being into romance? (There’s a bit where she’s going out with a guy and some characters were like “so a date” and she insisted it “wasn’t a date”, and the other characters were like “it’s so a date” but no seriously if she says it’s not a date, it’s not a date end of). And people can think they’re being funny and it’s a joke but trust me, from personal experience it doesn’t always feel that way.

Definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of the authors’ prior work, and are looking for a fufilling contemporary with a bit of emotional depth.

> 4 stars

I received a proof copy in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Amber Smith.
Author 10 books1,365 followers
April 16, 2019
I love this book so much--Jess and Vivi's relationship was so beautiful and true. There were so many parts that resonated deep in my bones. Not only their relationship, but also the rawness of Jess's grief. I haven't cried over in book in so long, but that's how real these characters were--I loved them and didn't want the story to end (although the ending was perfect). A must-read for any who has loved and lost, anyone who has had to try to figure out how to navigate grief and healing. One of my favorite books of the year!
Profile Image for Charlotte.
82 reviews11 followers
February 1, 2021
This book was super sweet and I really liked the way it was written. I found myself crying while I was reading it though.
Profile Image for Elly.
338 reviews49 followers
March 1, 2020
Wow. Je suis bouleversée par cette lecture. J'ai adoré et en même temps j'ai eu du mal à la terminer. C'est une histoire tragique, qui traite du chagrin et de la mort avec beaucoup de réalisme. Nous rencontrons Jess, qui vient subitement de perdre sa petite amie. Comment s'en remettre et surtout est-ce possible ? Le deuil est raconté avec beaucoup de justesse, en alternant le présent après la mort de Vivi, et le passé, quand leur amour a commencé. Ainsi, on vit chaque étape de la relation entre Jess et Vivi, et chaque étape de deuil. L'art a aussi une place très importante dans l'histoire, car Jess a toujours eu un talent pour le dessin. Après l'avoir rejeter, Jess va se rendre compte que l'art peut l'aider à guérir et avancer. Une très belle histoire, sensible, avec des personnages forts et queer, et un message magnifique derrière la douleur. ❤️
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews112 followers
August 18, 2019
3 stars
TW: death of parent, death of loved one, grief, sexual assault, death, alcohol use, drug use, homophobia, extensive use of d*ke, fat shaming
Rep: latinx lesbian MC with anger issues, mga LI w/asthma

The Writing
The writing style of this book felt very simplistic and juvenile to me, but the upside to that was that it definitely gave the main character a strong voice, even when that voice felt like it didn't really fit the character. I could definitely point out some missed opportunities in the text where I thought the writing style could have been adjusted to better fit the MC and her current state of mind, but I won't because I'm lazy lmao. There were also definitely instances of telling as opposed to showing, which I wasn't a big fan of, as you might have guessed.

The Plot/Pacing
The main arc of this book is the main character, Jessica, coming to terms with her grief and learning to live with it, and I definitely thought that her journey could have been paced out better just because there were really long stretches where nothing really happened and then a lot of things would start happening at once and I thought that could have been spaced out better so that the reader always had something to look forward to. I would go as far as to say that this book felt very slice-of-life to me, and I'm not really sure if that's what it was intending to do. This book feels like it's trying to say something about grief, but it can't really figure out what that something is.

The Characters
Both the main character and her girlfriend read as very bland and one dimensional for the majority of the book and only at the end did they finally start to feel more three-dimensional. As a result, I really did not care about the main character enough to want to know what was going to happen to her and I think for the majority of the book, I was just reading to finish the book, instead of reading to find out what happens.
The side characters were cool, though, I was mostly reading for them, to be honest.

It feels like this book is not sure about what message it's trying to send and, as a result, I'm not sure what my takeaway from this book should have been.
Profile Image for Alex.
179 reviews1 follower
July 10, 2019
Okay I was really excited for this book when I first heard about it but unfortunately I was very disappointed. At first the story was interesting and I saw a lot of myself in Jess as a character but then Jess started to make some biphobic comments. When Vivi suggested that she could have been interested in guys had she had not been dating Jess, Jess got irritated at her which really fucking irritated me. Bi/pan people exist y’all. My other main problem with this is that Jess repeatedly said that because she was a lesbian, being with a guy isn’t cheating. Uhhhh what, yes it fucking is cheating. There was also some aphobic things in here too cuz Jess would keep teasing her friend about not being interested in sex or relationships even when she told her multiple times to stop. Jess is not a likeable character at all and none of these things are really challenged so I can’t give this book more that 2 stars.
Profile Image for Ally (AllyEmReads).
674 reviews44 followers
April 28, 2020
Another raw and emotional story from one of my favorite queer authors, dealing with grief, loss, and love. Brown really knows all the right buttons to press in order to pull all of that emotion out of you. I love her writing and always will. The only reason this isn’t a five star is because I didn’t like some of the things Jess did, even if it was realistic (mostly I didn’t actually like how she treated Vivi and felt like it wasn’t truly addressed enough)
Profile Image for tessie.
219 reviews46 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
May 3, 2021
dnf at 14%

i started this about a month ago and you know what i have absolutely NO motivation to pick it up again so a dnf it is

i have been wanting to read this one for agesss now and i had a good feeling about it and i got the library to purchase it for me but dkdkrkofv it’s whatever i just find it really boring so far and the characters are . incredibly annoying

(also like?? 80% of what i’ve read has just been descriptions of clothing i can’t Deal with this anymore)

i might pick this up again at some point since a nearby library has a copy now and i hate dnfing a book i was excited for for a long time but!! whatever
Profile Image for Izzy.
100 reviews7 followers
August 8, 2020
Read this book because it deals with grief and I liked it (enough) but what I liked is definitely outweighed by what I didn't like. I didnt like Jess, even in the Before... Also there was a few stereotypes/tropes, one being Jess having Mexican ancestry ("dad was half and then giving her anger issues.

CW: death of parent/loved one, homophobia, bi/panphobobia, ace/arophobia, transphobia, slurs (multiple use of d*), slut shaming, sexual assault, stereotypes
February 12, 2023
This is a perfect example of me in my reading slump. The first (not even) half took me a month and a week or so, and the other "bigger" half took me two days. I read more than 200 pages in two days and the two-days-reading-streak really opened my eyes about this book. The writing style was absolutely spot on. I can't believe Jess had to go through all this, all by herself. Hope Vivi is doing good in heaven. And like it says on the cover: „this will break you and heal you."
Profile Image for Jovana Autumn.
566 reviews177 followers
January 19, 2020
I have put off writing a review for this book because of two reasons.

One, it was a hard book to read, being that it deals with losing somebody and dealing with the grief that comes with the loss. I have lost a family member a few years ago and even though the main character lost her significant other, I could relate to her pain.

Reason number two is that I was in a melancholic mood right after I finished the book and that was not in tune with the hope and positive message that the book closes off with. I did know that I should write the review when some time has passed so I could see the big picture.

I liked this book. It isn't a perfect book but if you connect with the characters or the overall feelings in this book, you will like it a lot.

I recommend reading this book but prepare for a rollercoaster of feelings.


Not an easy read, RTC.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 384 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.