May Bird and the Ever After

May Bird coverBy Jodi Lynn Anderson [LibrarythingAmazon]

May Bird and the Ever After is the story of socially awkward ten-year-old May Ellen Bird and her hairless cat, Somber Kitty. It’s just been May, her mother, and Somber Kitty for her whole life, and May just doesn’t fit in at school, no matter how hard she tries. Really, the only place she does fit in is the woods of Briery Swamp…Until she falls into a strange, hidden lake, and when she climbs out, she can see ghosts all over.

Strange things start to happen, culminating with May and Kitty falling through the lake into the bizarre Ever After, a land of ghosts, spirits, specters, goblins, ghouls, demons, and other assorted creepy evil types. The Ever After is a dangerous place, especially for cats and Live Ones, and despite having received a desperate plea for help, all May wants to do is get out—before the Bogeyman or Evil Bo Cleevil catch her and turn her into nothing.

It took me awhile to get into the book. The beginning was fairly predictable; May is awkward and isolated, creepy things happen, she falls into the Ever After. What keeps the setup from being too generic, given the popularity of kid-in-magical-world books, is that after May starts seeing ghosts, it’s really creepy. Even Pumpkin, the kind of dumb but well meaning house ghost who befriends her, is scary when he’s first introduced, and he’s got nothing on the ghost who she’s forced to share a shower with, or the one she sees hanging by her neck from the rafters. May Bird may be a kids book, but it’s got a very real amount of darkness to it; I think, had I been reading it as a kid, I’d have been terrified.

The story overall picks up when May gets into the Ever After, though I still had a few frustrations with it. All of the exposition and explanation that’s given is dropped in very abruptly and quickly; I wanted to read without slowing down, because the writing was compelling, but I found it was too much of an exposition dump to process and spent the rest of the book flipping back to try and remember which kind of creepy creature was which, and where the different place were. (…Until I discovered the map at the beginning I’d somehow missed. D’oh.)

My other frustration, I think, stemmed from the Ever After itself. May is thrust into a confusing, alien world, but it feels like there are no real rules governing it, as though the world building was done spur of the moment rather than planned. A few important specifics are outlined (specters used to be alive, ghosts never were) and a general impression of the Ever After is given, but strange things keep happening and since May doesn’t understand why, neither does the reader. But the problem fades away as May gets acclimated—not totally, but when she leaves the city for a trek in a vast expanse of wasteland, there are fewer incidents to cause confusion and the world feels more solid. By the time she got to her next destination, the book has picked up and the focus shifted to her story, not the world.

With all that said, the book was an enjoyable read. It avoided another of the big kid-in-magic-world clichés because, while clearly special for reasons we don’t understand yet, May hasn’t developed any super-special powers. May herself is the second-best thing about the book; though the various sidekicks and companions who show up are all interesting, May is the only one who’s relatable. She wants to make friends and be normal, but doesn’t really get how to be normal; she’s sure that somewhere deep inside, she’s a brave warrior, but she hasn’t figured out where that warrior is lurking yet. She doesn’t read like a ten-year-old for most of it, but she carries the novel regardless.

The best thing in the book, though, is Somber Kitty. He has his own subplot, and is full of personality—despite the fact that he doesn’t speak, what with being a cat and all. His journey is nearly as compelling as May’s.

The book gets three and a half cupcakes: it has its flaws, but I enjoyed it a lot. I did hurry out to buy the sequel—but put it back when I realized it was only in hard cover. I definitely will want to continue with the series; the first book definitely left me wondering what May’s great destiny is, and why she was the one chosen to try and save the Ever After.

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    7 Responses to “May Bird and the Ever After”

    1. penmage says:

      I worked on this book when I interned at S&S, and I was not a big fan. Eh. I really wanted to like it the whole time, but it just never pulled me in.

    2. Rebecca says:

      I can understand that…I’m not sure what it was about the book, but it almost felt like it was missing an element that normally would have pulled me in more, I just don’t know what that element was.

    3. Momo 13 says:

      I love the book! I read the book and then this.I think you missed a bit.But its a good book.I think deservers 4 cupcakes though. =)
      Love Ya’ll

      Momo 13

    4. Kierstin says:

      That is the best book! Its so good and I kind of feel the same way that she did…….

    5. summer says:

      are you kidding??? that book is amazing! it missing a little something, but it made up for it in a little humor and courage. at least four and a half stars/cupcakes.

    6. Jamie says:

      You pepole who hate this book are crazy.I am in love with this stinken book.And by the way Pumpkin is a big part of the book and he isent that dumb.(sort-of)Do u know hwo deserves a cupcake? I DO!…..with lot of sprinkles!SO THERE!

    7. Sidney says:

      I need to see chapter 2 by tuesday but i left my book at school.

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