Reviews for Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets

Booklist Reviews 2013 March #1
?Sixteen-year-old James Whitman is paranoid, depressed, and confused. He despises his stressful homelife; has a crush on a bright, artistic girl who has a jerk for a boyfriend; and is desperately trying to discern why his older sister, Jorie, got kicked out of school and their house. James deals with his feelings of guilt, sadness, and anxiety by avoiding his parents, quoting Walt Whitman, hugging trees, and silently conversing with an imaginary therapist who is a bird, all while nursing a secret hope that he can make everything okay. Roskos' first novel is rich with hilarity and realistic inner dialogue, although James' first-person narrative doesn't always feel wholly authentic. This title may take some booktalking and hand-selling due to its strange title, eccentric cover featuring a pigeon, and Whitman conceit, but the right readers may find it lifesaving. Give this darkly funny debut to fans of Stephen Chbosky's The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999). Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Maneuvering the hazards of high school, abusive parents, a banished sister, and diminishing mental health proves exhausting for sixteen-year-old James. Though his circumstances are nothing to laugh at, James's wry sense of humor is one of his most charming coping mechanisms, and Roskos's strength lies in his relentless honesty about surviving with depression and anxiety.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
"I'm a depressed, anxious kid." Maneuvering the hazards of high school, abusive parents, a banished sister, and diminishing mental health proves exhausting for sixteen-year-old James Whitman. He's tried everything to feel better -- from reciting Walt Whitman to yawping in the face of adversity, hugging trees, rescuing a Tastykake wrapper (he thinks it's a bird) from being hit by a bus, and even talking to an imaginary pigeon therapist about his problems -- but none of it seems to help. When his parents refuse to pay for real therapy, James decides to get a part-time job in order to afford it himself, while simultaneously undertaking a crusade to get his sister reinstated in school and ultimately welcomed back into his home. However, digging into his sister's past unearths secrets he isn't entirely ready to face and solidifies his belief that his family may be irreparably broken. Though his circumstances are nothing to laugh at, James's wry sense of humor, one of his most charming coping mechanisms, effortlessly fuses with the starkness of his reality. Author Roskos's strength lies in his refusal to tidy up the mess in James's life and in his relentless honesty about surviving with depression and anxiety. shara l. hardeson

Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
Self-deprecating humor abounds in this debut novel that pulls no punches about the experience of depression and anxiety for its teen protagonist. The words of Walt Whitman provide solace for 16-year-old James, whose mental health struggles are exacerbated by living with abusive parents and agonizing over what he could have done differently to prevent his older sister, Jorie, from being thrown out of the house. James' intense first-person narration, which includes imagined therapy sessions with a pigeon he calls Dr. Bird, both flares with frenetic silliness and sinks heavily into despair, realistically depicting his mood swings. At times contemplating suicide, he's aware of the gravity of his situation, even as his parents react with heartbreaking ambivalence: "Therapy isn't what you need....You're just at that age where you think everything is so horrible and terrible." His self-awareness makes him an enormously sympathetic character. Readers will root for him to win over Beth, the editor of his school's literary magazine, and forgive him for going over the top ("I know that they're all just going to pretend like I'm not here trying to tear the walls down with my fucking barbaric yaawwwwwppppp!") when he rages at a woman who has been carrying on an affair, with his best friend Derek, behind the back of her fiance. Captivating introspection from a winning character. (Fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 February #1

This sensitive first novel portrays the struggle of 16-year-old James Whit-man to overcome anxiety and depression. James blames himself for his older sister's expulsion from their home and estrangement from their bullying parents. Roskos effectively sketches James as a boy who is far more comfortable inside his own head than in connecting with others (case in point, he hugs trees to make himself feel better and seeks advice from Dr. Bird, an imaginary pigeon therapist). Throughout, James takes comfort in the poetry of Walt Whitman, often co-opting the writer's literary techniques in his narration ("I sound my morning yawp! I blast out my inner glow at the sunshine to try to shout it down. To have it lift me up. For someone, somewhere, to see me"). Friendships old and new, along with James's growing interest in his own poetry and photography, help him gain confidence and understanding, especially as he discovers unsettling secrets about his sister. Bravely facing real sorrow, James confronts his problems with grace and courage. Ages 14-up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Harvey Klinger. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 April

Gr 9 Up--James Whitman tries to adopt the spirit of Walt Whitman, loving nature and sounding a loud YAWP to show proof of his existence, but he is having a rough time keeping his poetic chin up lately. His older sister, Jorie, has been expelled from their high school and his abusive parents throw her out of their house. James is feeling guilty about not standing up for her and is depressed about his own life. He is the kind of teen who will run into traffic to try and save an injured bird, but he's also an introspective poet who has frequent suicidal thoughts. His own internal therapist is a pigeon he calls Dr. Bird, and since James is a smart guy, she offers good advice. But since James is also, as he puts it, "wired funny," he does not always listen to Dr. Bird. Since he lives in his head so much, the novel's pace can be a bit slow. Roskos perfectly captures the voice of a teen, but this boy is unbelievably self-aware. Readers only see tiny bits of his parents through his eyes. This is problematic, as James is not the most reliable of narrators, but that certainly adds to readers' empathy. Although Jorie cuts herself and James has suicidal thoughts, the narrative points in a slightly more positive direction for them both by the end as James is able to confront his parents and demand their assistance in getting him help.--Geri Diorio, Ridgefield Library, CT

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VOYA Reviews 2013 February
James battles depression and anxiety by hugging trees, quoting Walt Whitman, and talking his feelings out with an imaginary therapist pigeon, Dr. Bird. James says, "Narrating the world like Walt Whitman makes me smile." James feel immensely guilty for not helping his sister more in the time leading up to her expulsion from school and home and, after meeting up with her at a party, sets out to uncover the truth around the events, blaming his father, "the Brute," and his mother, "the Banshee," for their abuse over the years. In his search, James falls for the editor of the school literary magazine; becomes embroiled in his best friend's love life; and learns a truth about his sister. We first meet James "yawping" in the morning just to annoy his father. We quickly learn that James has good intentions but is not without flaws of his own. Roskos has created a character that does not necessarily change throughout the book, but learns to live with himself as he is, to celebrate himself and those around him even as flawed as they are. This book tackles hard topics, like depression, cutting, and suicide, without packaging it in a tidy bow at the end. Readers may have to be nudged into picking it up but will be left with something to think about.--J. Doyle 4Q 3P S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.