Honest, Powerful, Flawed and Beautiful
Heather Smith is such a versatile author. In the past few years she has written some incredible picture books, a critically acclaimed middle grade novel, and raw, honest young adult novels. Although all very different genres with very different audiences, the one element you can expect from all of her writing is honesty and courage.
The newest of her young adult novels is Chicken Girl. Poppy is an optimistic hilarious sixteen year old girl with an affinity to anything from the second world war era, especially Rosie the Riveter. When the online trolls start mocking a picture of her in Reddit, her optimism drains, she loses her spark and takes a summer job as a restaurant mascot, dressed in a huge chicken costume. Soon she discovers a little Miracle which opens her eyes to the world around her and meets an incredible cast of characters who challenge her to accept the good in the world, even when faced with so much bad.
Heather Smith is truly writing for the new generation of teens and young adults. She is not afraid to tackle some of the most current and challenging topics young people face today. Her writing is honest and at times difficult but so incredibly necessary. Young people are bombarded with so many contradictory messages constantly through social media and are facing some of the highest levels of mental illness and anxiety in recent history. Books like Chicken Girl allow young people to see themselves, to face some of the huge questions face and to recognize some very hard truths. This story is one of redemption, of questioning long held beliefs and of challenging the status quo. Poppy is written in such an authentic way, saying all of the wrong things at times, holding some pretty interesting beliefs and just being a teenager still trying to figure out the world and her place in it. The other characters challenge Poppy and question all of the ideas she holds, making her a stronger person for it. The story is beautiful and funny and charming and heartbreaking all at the same time. Heather Smith is a master of writing a compelling ensemble cast novel. Her main characters are always flawed and in Poppy’s case, naive, but it’s the characters around her main characters who add so much depth and understanding to this story. They are not just decoration to add interest to the main story, they are an integral part to the journey .