Book Review : Sparrow by Mary Cecilia Jackson

Sparrow (Amazon Link) (Note : $1.99 eBook sale this week.)
Author : Mary Cecilia Jackson
Published By : TorTeen
Year Published : 2020
Genre / Tags : Young Adult, Contemporary
Formats : Hardcover, Audiobook, eBook
# of Pages : 368 pages


In the tradition of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, Mary Cecilia Jackson’s devastating but hopeful YA debut is about a ballerina who finds the courage to confront the abuse that haunts her past and threatens her future.

There are two kinds of people on the planet. Hunters and prey

I thought I would be safe after my mother died. I thought I could stop searching for new places to hide. But you can’t escape what you are, what you’ve always been.
My name is Savannah Darcy Rose.
And I am still prey.


Disclosure : I received an ARC of this title for the purpose of review.

Tw : Generally heavy subject matter, grief, loss, abuse, intimate partner violence.

Sparrow is a harrowing YA contemporary. Emotional and disturbing beyond my initial expectations. The main summary of this book does give advance warning of the themes tackled and compares its heavy subject matter to Laurie Halse Anderson’s works. She’s famous for writing Speak and Wintergirls, among other titles. Sparrow has two differing perspectives. Most pronounced is that of the titular heroine, Savannah Rose aka Sparrow. The second narrative voice is Lucas, her best friend. The story starts off quietly as we get a peek into the day-to-day lives of these teenaged characters. The second half of the book is when major moves are made and the heaviest elements are dealt with.

But to wind back a bit, we begin with Savannah meeting Tristan King. He’s been at her school this whole time but she is really noticing him for the first time and falls hard for him. The two start a relationship that gets serious fast. Lucas doesn’t trust Tristan, though his own feelings for Savannah make him seem to have an ulterior motive. Nonetheless, he notices several signs of toxicity in their relationship. His efforts to come to her aid send him down an increasingly troubled path.

I’m trying not to reveal too much as there are massive events in this book that are startling. The core storyline is good. The premise immediately caught my attention. The writing style can move a bit too slowly for my tastes, but I was pretty hooked from the midway point. The overall tone is thoughtful and gloomy, not inappropriate for the content of course but readers should be prepared before diving in.

I realize more and more how important characterization is these days in my reading experiences. If the characters are lacking in some way, everything else rarely makes up for it.

Savannah is a difficult character to like, almost pointedly dislikable in her aggressive unkindness toward important people in her life. I was constantly finding myself making an effort to have patience with her voice and the atmosphere she brings to the table. I like imperfect characters, they can not only be done well but also add more dimension and impact to a story. The main character of Sadie by Courtney Summers comes to mind. But Savannah lacks charisma and I wasn’t very engaged by the proceedings.

Lucas’s sub story fares a bit better though he comes off as exaggerated in his fixation on Savannah. While I didn’t connect with the characterization, some of the writing stands out as particularly good. Both leads face loss and their grief is illustrated in a way that seemed realistic and poignant. In closing, this book was mixed bag but might be worth checking out if you’ve been captivated by similar YA contemporaries.

Overall Rating – 6/10

Why You Should Try It – If you’re looking for a heavier YA contemporary that tackles serious issues, this might be worth checking out. The dual perspectives are distinctive and offer added insight as the story develops. At their best, Sparrow’s moments are very well-written, inspiring emotional resonance and an intense atmosphere.

Why You Might Not Like It – The story moves slowly in the first half. I found the two leads lacking, they’re easy to dislike (particularly Savannah.) In efforts to avoid spoilers I didn’t detail too much about the portrayal of domestic violence but that section of the story seemed rushed and lacking the depth and nuance that subject requires.

Sparrow (Amazon Link)

Thank you for reading my review of Sparrow, have you heard of this title and have an interest in it or have already read it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I read books similar to these growing up, by authors like Laurie Halse Anderson or a particular favorite, Han Nolan. I have more reviews coming up and am looking to get some more general bookish posts out soon. Thanks again for reading, Kitty


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