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On the Way to Birdland

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  38 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Self-proclaimed teenage philosopher Cordell Wheaton lives in a sleepy, southern town where nothing ever happens; not since his hero, jazz musician John Coltrane, left some seventy years earlier to “follow the sound.” Cordy’s life has been unraveling since the night his father and his brother, Travis, exploded on each other. The night Travis’s addiction transformed him from ...more
Paperback, 300 pages
Published June 8th 2021 by Fish Out of Water Books (first published May 4th 2021)
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this was even more all over the place than i expected from that all over the place description.

but...in a good way? i think?

review to come / 3.5ish stars

tbr review

this had me at spooky travel-y ghostly YA contemporary


challenging myself to read as many review copies as possible this month because i'm addicted to projects!

ARC 1: spaceman of bohemia
ARC 2: in search of us
ARC 3: aerialists
ARC 4: the sound of drowning
ARC 5: unleaving
ARC 6: the other side of luck
ARC 7: rom
Juliet Rose
Apr 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
This book follows 16 year old Cordy Wheaton as he is in search for his missing brother Travis, along the east coast. He encounters many colorful characters along the way, each acting a mentor to him. Cordy, and his brother Travis, share a love of John Coltrane, and Cordy lives his life through the words of many great philosophers. The story flashes to dreams and thoughts Cody is having, filled with doubt and trauma. The story has a nice twist at the end, though I figured it out earlier on. This ...more
Ann Campanella
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
On The Way To Birdland is a musical riff put into words, one that infuses the jazz of John Coltrane through a wild adolescent journey. The reader follows sixteen-year-old Cordell Wheaton’s escape from Highpoint, North Carolina, by train, semi, boat, car, even a hog truck to Philadelphia, where he hopes to find his brother, all the way to New York City. A novel of magnificent scope, author Frank Morelli grapples with family relationships, the grip of addiction, fate versus destiny, and how we fin ...more
Evelina | AvalinahsBooks
How I read this: Free ebook copy received through Edelweiss

On the way to Birdland is a story about how sometimes we need to cover physical distances, only so that we could open doors inside of our own selves. It’s a rather heavy story, but it’s very good YA, and I think it could resonate with a lot of young people – especially those who have dealt with some kind of trauma, perhaps even PTSD, those who are lonely or who have been betrayed, have family trouble. That, and it had quite a few twists,
Amy McKee
Mar 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
contacted me and asked if I would like to read his new novel. The ARC was gifted to me but all opinions are my own 👌🥰

(Swipe to see synopsis)
TW - drug abuse, depression & PTSD

We follow 16year old cordy on a journey of self discovery, from his small town in North Carolina to Bird Land Club in NYC

The story is woven together by music, it's clear from the very start that Jazz music, in particular, John Coltrane, has bonded Cordy and Travis and is part of the catalyst that sends Cordy on his journey.
Jun 02, 2021 rated it really liked it


The story made me emotional. Cordy is a great character, and I loved how the author portrayed him. He is naive and curious but sets a goal and is keen to follow it until the end.

Similarly, the author wrote the story beautifully where you feel as though you are next to Cordy throughout the story. I also liked the snippets of Cordy’s dreams and how they eventually merged with the current storyline. At times I also felt like I w
Shane Reid
Mar 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I was given a copy of ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND via Voracious Readers and Frank Morelli.

As soon as an advertisement email for ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND came into my inbox, I was hooked. A modern Odyssey, brothers finding their way back to each other, music as a driving force, and a personal coming-of-age story to wrap all these themes in? I was sold immediately. Receiving a physical copy only made it that more special. I didn't even finish the first page before grabbing my tabs.

"I didn't always lie a
Frank Morelli
Jan 11, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I wanted to use this space to provide an explanation on how philosophy and mythology are inextricably linked to the very core of On the Way to Birdland, and how that makes it an incredibly important novel for young adults to read in our present day.

In the novel, my protagonist Cordell Wheaton, is on a mission to find his estranged brother and reunite his family before it’s too late. With his father fighting a terminal illness and his brother, Travis, in the throes of addiction, Cordy has no cho
Sam - Spines in a Line
Jun 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Thanks to the author for an e-ARC!

There’s a whole cast of unusual and (mostly) helpful characters that Cordy meets along the way too, folks who whether they intend to or not help him along his physical and internal journey as he tries to gain a better understanding of his family and his own place in the world.

While it’s a fun story about a teenager traveling cross-country on his quest, it’s not without heavier topics. This is an underage teenager who’s set out on the journey without informing h
Feb 27, 2022 rated it really liked it
I will be honest, as always, but in the beginning of this book I was not taken in. I had to build a little trust with the narrator to get invested into this story.
I am not much into books where the main character travels from place to place, HOWEVER, this book gives off "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" and a modern day "The Alchemist" vibes.
Once in that frame of mind, I began to enjoy this book a whole heck of a lot.
Frank Morelli weaves the story of Cordy Wheaton, a boy who leaves home wi
Lisa McCombs
Cordell Wheaton lives his sixteen-year-old life in High Point, North Carolina, home of jazz musician John T. Coltrane, whose words and music compose the magical symphony of guidance. Wrapped in a world of bullying, without the Trane and his brother’s role modeling, Cordy wouldn’t recognize the great out there as anything other than being the victim. When he learns that his father is dying from lung cancer, Cordy is determined to locate his wayward brother, Travis, and bring him home to reunite w ...more
Natalie Ramos
Jul 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Hold on tight for the ride.
Jul 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is an amazing read for young people about one sixteen year old adolescent’s journey inside himself, it has a bitter sweet feel to it as the author describes the seemingly meaningless feelings and experiences of our main character ‘Cordell Wheaton’.

Our story begins with the revelation that Cordell’s brother ‘Travis’ has left home without warning and this has affected Cordell behaviour and thoughts patterns, he no longer gives a toss about consequences, he feels like he needs to rebel agains
Oct 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It is a story of a boy who is trying to get to Birdland which is a jazz venue adored by him and his brother. He thinks he needs to do this for his brother, that it might even save his family. So, the whole book is about the journey.

The fast paced journey this book takes is such a coming of age story with battles of inner self hidden in every move the characters make, and the author’s ability to force our attachment to the characters is phenomenal. My heart really loved the main character, Cordy
Jun 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
oh did I love it- Cordy Cordy Cordy how my heart hurts for you, how I loved you and your wonderful journey, how I yearn to go on your path of self discovery (a wonderful, loving one at that) with you

There was a surge of emotion with this one and it didn’t stop until well after I’d finished. Cordy’s story is one that many, young and old, can relate to - touching on themes of mental health, the struggles of healing, trauma, forgiveness, addiction, and even jazz 🎶 but most importantly finding your
samantha joy
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book was very impactful. Wonderful writing and wonderful characters. There were elements I wasn’t expecting and I loved how as you read it you got to know so many people with different struggles and backgrounds. Great book!
Jennifer Hottinger
Nov 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Music and a trip Cordell ventures on to find his brother as dad is sick. Forty dollars, traverse roads and disturbing visions will not stop Cordy from trying to bring his family back together! Deep YA novel!
Daisy Rodriguez
Oct 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and the main character. This book is a must read
Poignant and impactful, ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND is a coming-of-age tale that takes readers on a journey of discovery, hope, family, and the things we do for the ones we love. ⁣⁣

Cordy Wheaton only wants his brother back home where he belongs. After a fight with his father, Travis leaves town without letting Cordy know where he’s going. The brothers were once closer than close, with a shared love of jazz and John Coltrane providing the glue that bonded them together. Piecing together memories of t
Paige (pagebypaigebooks)
"Standing up to yourself is one of the hardest things a human being can do."

I'd like to thank the author for sending me an ARC copy in exchange for an honest review! This book comes out June 8th!

I've also posted this review on Instagram and my blog.

Instagram Post

Blog Post

What I liked most about On the Way to Birdland was the characters! Especially the ones that Cordy meets on his travels. I enjoyed learning about their lives and how they got to where they are today. I thought Cordy was an intere
LeighAnne (that.bookmom)
Apr 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
This story was beautifully written as it follows 16yo Cordell "Cordy" Wheaton on his journey from High Point, NC to Philly to find his brother Travis. I love how personal and real the story felt, how it dealt with hard situations a lot of young adults face and how it centered around the jazz music of John Coltrane. I absolutely loved all of the side characters Cordy meets along the way (as he hitchhikes by semi truck, boat, train, car...) especially Captain Adomi and Cowbird. As Cordy continues ...more
Jun 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
I received a copy for an honest review but this has not influenced my review. I loved the lyrical writing of the story and the theme of jazz throughout the story. The book follows young Cordy on a journey of self discovery, we meet many characters along the way as much as the twists and turns the story goes though. Cordys character development is extremely well written and is quite heavy for a YA novel but the themes of PTSD, addiction and death. The story has me through the wringer I highly rec ...more
Sidney Briggs
Dec 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book was amazingly complex and touching. Morelli accurately portrays a feeling of being stuck in a small town, yet loving it for what it is. This book will take you on an adventure that slowly reveals the characters’ personalities but also makes you think about your own philosophy on life.

It doesn’t actually take this long to read this book, but I got logged out of goodreads and couldn’t get back in until now. Highly recommend it no matter how long it takes, though!
Tonja Drecker
Feb 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Digging deep into the soul and emotions of the main character, this book takes a journey which leads to more than might be first expected.

Cordell's life has been unsettled since his brother, Travis, left him and his father alone. Cordell isn't sure how to regain balance, and his father isn't exactly helpful in the matter. But one thing is for sure, Cordell has not lost is love for music. When his father falls ill and everything in Cordell's life seems to unravel, he decides it's time to bring Tr
Martha Schwalbe
Mar 19, 2022 rated it liked it
The journey of Cordy to find his brother was intriguing, the events, the characters.

I read a paperback copy with a really tight binding so the book didn't stay open without holding it with two hands. This made it really frustrating to read. I asked students about how they feel about holding books and they like to read in bed or with the book flat on the desk or table.

It's an interesting dilemma, one I've never encountered before.
Feb 28, 2022 rated it did not like it
May 29, 2021 marked it as dnf

I couldn't really sink into the story and the writing wasn't able to grip me either. This is probably a me thing so don't let my review stop you from picking up this book.
Tonya Preece
rated it really liked it
Aug 03, 2022
rated it it was amazing
Feb 15, 2021
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Oct 29, 2022
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FRANK MORELLI is the author of the young adult novels ON THE WAY TO BIRDLAND (2021) and NO SAD SONGS (2018), a YALSA Quick Picks nominee and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming-of-age novel. His latest middle grade novel, BREAKING NEWS, is set to release on April 28, 2022.

A Philadelphia native, Morelli now lives in High Point, NC with his best friend and muse, their obnoxious alle

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