Goodreads Review: Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

Two Star review, originally posted here on August 20, 2014.

***SPOILER ALERT!!!***

This is really a 2.4 star review. I’m wondering if I would have enjoyed this book had I read it as a kid. I’m thinking probably yes, since I’m a big fan of the strong tomboy heroine type characters and always have been, and some things that bug me now as an adult reader probably wouldn’t have bugged me as a kid.

But, alas, I am reading it as a 32 year old (upon a recommendation from a friend who said it would be right up my alley), and I just plain didn’t like it. There were some aspects that I think were good. Hearing about “real” medieval life was interesting. The narrator’s interpretation of the saints were pretty funny. But the storytelling just wasn’t there. Nothing really happened or progressed. The ending was just tacked on and stupid. If marrying the gross dude’s son is supposed to be a big happy ending, then perhaps we should know something more about him? I think there are maybe 3 or 4 full sentences about him in the entire book. He could be a total tool for all we know, but he gives a good gift and is nerdy, so we’re supposed to presume he’s a suitable match (he could be a total douche canoe- we don’t know). Every inconvenient character dies and every nice and important character lives. The main character never really grows or learns or changes. She starts as a brat and ends as a brat, so while I could relate to her tomboy nature and her righteous indignation, I couldn’t really relate to her overall since she was so generally unpleasant and never bothered changing.

I’m also a little disturbed by the casual references to child abuse. If I was a kid reading this, then the way in which the father’s constant beatings and the brother’s constant inappropriate touching was so nonchalantly mentioned might make me think that this behavior is okay or normal, which is definitely NOT a message we should be sending to kids. This is especially dangerous since by the end we’re supposed to start liking both of these characters (I guess?). I’m not a child psychologist, so maybe I’m way off here, but to me this was really off-putting.

TL;DR: This book had potential, but to me it just fell flat overall.


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