Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CYBILS Review: A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar



ABOUT THE BOOK

Life for Alex Schrader has never involved girls. He goes to an all-boys prep school and spends most of his time goofing around with his friends. But all that changes the first time he meets Bijou Doucet, a Haitian girl recently relocated to Brooklyn after the earthquake-and he is determined to win her heart. For Bijou, change is the only constant, and she's surprised every day by how different life is in America, especially when a boy asks her out. Alex quickly learns that there are rules when it comes to girls-both in Haitian culture and with his own friends. And Bijou soon learns that she doesn't have to let go of her roots to find joy in her new life. 

Told in alternating viewpoints against the vibrant backdrop of Haitian-American culture, Alex and Bijou take their first tender steps toward love in this heartwarming story.

REVIEW

I enjoyed a lot of things about this book.  The characters are interesting and unique.  The plot was different than I've read before in a lot of ways. But there were a couple of things that irritated me as well. I'll start with the good stuff.

Strengths: Alex and Bijou are great characters.  Alex is shy but fascinated by girls and when he sees Bijou he falls in like immediately. The rest of the book follows Alex and Bijou as a relationship begins to form and Alex tries to convince Bijou to be his friend (girlfriend). Both characters come across as believable and likable.  The secondary characters are great too, Alex's friends, Ira and Nomuro, Bijou's friends, brother and aunt and uncle, all come across as real people.

The plot is an interesting one as Alex and Bijou have more than the normal boy/girl stuff to contend with. Bijou has recently come from Haiti where she lived through the massive earthquake of 2010 and it has left it's mark on her.  In addition, Haitian culture is very different than American culture when it comes to boy/girl relationships and Bijou is not supposed to have anything to do with boys, so both she and Alex lie to further their friendship.  I appreciated that this came back to bite both of them in the end. The boy/girl and friend interactions felt quite real and authentic. I really enjoyed the taste of Haitian culture and the inclusion of Haitian music and dance in the story, it added real flavor.  It was great to see a cross-cultural relationship develop along with the tensions involved.

Weaknesses: Is the profanity really necessary? I know a lot of people speak that way, but I prefer not to read it and a lot of the kids I work with do to.  In addition, am I the only one who finds twelve too young for kissing? Maybe I'm just weird that way. Sigh. I also got really irritated that the bullies who sabotage Alex and Bijou's relationship get away with it and Alex and Ira use 'blackmail' to get the boys to back off. I think this is just a personal pet peeve though.

Overall, an enjoyable and informative read full of life and culture and fun.  I ended up really liking both Alex and Bijou, despite their sometimes poor choices.

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