When Wings Don’t Mean Freedom: Review of Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman
Random House Children’s

Twig Fowler and her family return to her mother’s hometown after a childhood spent in the city. Her mother insists that she keep no friends and remains alone, holed up on an apple orchard baking pies and other goods to be sold in town. Twig’s brother James also chafes at the isolation. He only comes out at night, when no one will see the long wings sprouting from his back.

When rumors of a monster stir up the townsfolk, Twig begins to panic. If a search is called for, her brother might be discovered. It might be easy to stay hidden if it weren’t for Twig’s new neighbors, a family with two girls near her age. One late night Twig spots James and Agate, the older sister of the neighboring family, alone in the forest. But before James can be free to love and live as a normal person, they have to find a way to undo the family curse. Twig might be just the person to solve that problem.

There were a lot of great elements to this story: the mystery surrounding the curse, Twig’s mother’s sadness and her absent father, a boy with wings who falls in love. As I read, I kept comparing it to The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, which I think is a mistake, because Nightbird isn’t trying to be that kind of story. The similarities between the two really end beyond containing an important character with wings and a small-town setting.

I’m not sure if it’s my tendency for that comparison that left me feeling a little underwhelmed with the story. Everything resolves very neatly – and maybe that’s more appropriate for a younger audience. I found myself wishing for a little more of the complexity that filled the story’s opening pages to grace the story’s end. All in all, however, it was an enjoyable read.

This is more of a middle grade story than a YA novel. Readers aged nine to twelve would probably enjoy the story most.

Language Content

Sexual Content

Spiritual Content
A long time ago, a witch placed a horrible curse on the men in the Fowler family. The curse makes them grow wings.


Drug Content

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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