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Chicken Girl
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Chicken Girl
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Everybody has a story that will break your heart; a poignant coming-of-age YA for fans of David Arnold, from the author of the acclaimed The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, a Kirkus Best of the Year...
Everybody has a story that will break your heart; a poignant coming-of-age YA for fans of David Arnold, from the author of the acclaimed The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, a Kirkus Best of the Year...
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Description-

  • Everybody has a story that will break your heart; a poignant coming-of-age YA for fans of David Arnold, from the author of the acclaimed The Agony of Bun O'Keefe, a Kirkus Best of the Year selection.
    Poppy used to be an optimist. But after a photo of her dressed as Rosie the Riveter is mocked online, she's having trouble seeing the good in the world. As a result, Poppy trades her beloved vintage clothes for a feathered chicken costume and accepts a job as an anonymous sign waver outside a restaurant. There, Poppy meets six-year-old girl Miracle, who helps Poppy see beyond her own pain, opening her eyes to the people around her: Cam, her twin brother, who is adjusting to life as an openly gay teen; Buck, a charming photographer with a cute British accent and a not-so-cute mean-streak; and Lewis a teen caring for an ailing parent, while struggling to reach the final stages of his gender transition. As the summer unfolds, Poppy stops glorifying the past and starts focusing on the present. But just as she comes to terms with the fact that there is good and bad in everyone, she is tested by a deep betrayal.

Excerpts-

  • From the book I had one leg in the feathery yellow costume my boss called a uniform when Cam stomped into my room like a runway model on crack and thrust his chest out at the end of my bed.
    "Pops? Be honest. Do I have"—he paused for effect—"moobs?"
    It was a running gag, our use of word blends. He was obviously trying to one-up me after I'd used automagically earlier that day.
    "Nice try," I said. "But if it doesn't fit organically into a conversation it doesn't count."
    He looked down at his torso. "If you must know, the development of man boobs are a genuine concern of mine."
    I gave his naturally athletic body a once-over. "Pfssh. Yeah, right."
    I stepped into the other leg of my costume. "Now, if you'll excuse me. I'm running late and don't have time for this meaningless"—I paused for effect—"nonversation."
    He groaned in defeat. "Damn you, Poppy."
    I was almost out the door when he said, "Pops?"
    I turned around. "Yeah?"
    "I love seeing you happy."
    And just like that, the smile fell from my face.
    "What's wrong, Pops?"
    My sweet Cam. Didn't he know? Happiness was only temporary.
    I put on my head. "I'm fine. I'm late, that's all."
    It was true.
    I only had ten minutes before I had to be curbside holding a sign: Hot and spicy chicken wings, $8.99 a dozen.

    I walked down Churchill Street identifying each house as I passed: Plan 47-17, Plan 47-28, Plan 47-6. I'd been obsessed with wartime houses ever since I'd found the blueprints in the basement when I was ten. Each design was outlined in an affordable housing pamphlet for returning vets. Discovering that I lived in a home built during the war sent my imagination soaring. I became obsessed not only with wartime housing but with the whole era. It made me feel a longing, for what I didn't know. Simpler times, maybe. I figured everyone was happier in the forties.
    I followed the railway tracks into the downtown core. If I kept walking I'd reach the nicer part of downtown and eventually my school, but I stopped smack-dab in the middle of Elgin Street, where the surroundings were rundown and shabby. One building stood out though: Chen Chicken. Its white fairy lights twinkled all year round and the crisp white storefront looked warm and inviting.
    I snuck in the back door and grabbed my sign. I was ten minutes late. With any luck Mr. Chen would think I had been there all along.
    I walked up and down Elgin doing my usual moves—the hop, the skip, the jump. The sweat rolled off me. It wasn't the best summer job in the world but it was nice to be someone else for a change. Even if that someone was a bird.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2019
    A Canadian teen wallowing in suffering gets pulled out of it by people worse off than her.About six months ago, the internet was mean to Poppy. She posted a picture of herself posing like Rosie the Riveter, someone digitally edited a hamburger in her hand, fatphobic comments ensued, and Poppy retreated from her life. She stopped doing roller derby and took a job advertising for a restaurant while dressed in a full-body chicken suit. Her parents and twin brother, Cam, worry, but all Poppy wants to do is keep upsetting herself, binging on social media atrocities. When Poppy meets a small girl named Miracle, she's introduced to a community of homeless people and their friends and slowly learns to see outside her own pain. The plot reads like multiple lessons and morals haphazardly cobbled together instead of a novel. Miracle's mother is a sex worker, which appalls judgmental Poppy. Cam recently came out as gay and experiments with flamboyance, leading Poppy to conclude that he's forgetting who he really is, and a rape scene plays into homophobic tropes about predatory gay men. One character seems to exist only to teach the reader about transgender issues, reduced to his desire for bottom surgery and his experiences with transphobia. The book follows a white default with some implied diversity in secondary characters.There's a lot to enjoy about Poppy's voice, but heavy-handed moralizing impedes the reading experience. (Realistic fiction. 14-18)

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    March 1, 2019

    Gr 9 Up-When Internet trolls mock a photo of Poppy posing as Rosie the Riveter, the Canadian teen is deeply hurt and retreats from the world, taking on a job as a fast-food mascot; she wears a giant chicken suit. As she gets to know a young girl named Miracle and deals with numerous family issues, she comes to see her own problems as less serious. Smith explores myriad issues in this novel, including queer identity and coming out, sexual assault, homelessness, sex work, illegal drug use, body shaming, transgender defamation, elder care, white nationalism, immigration, and incarceration, but none are delved into with any depth. Poppy's self-induced loss of identity after being body shamed in an Internet forum is realistic, but her seeking comfort in the sleeping bag of a homeless young man minutes after meeting him is unbelievable. Poppy's own familial economic status seems contradictory at times. Supporting characters feel incomplete. Poppy's obsessive tendencies are not shown as consequential coping mechanisms and instead may be perceived as a flawed character trait. Smith's use of a repetitive onomatopoeia distracts from the story line. VERDICT With a multitude of young adult novels examining timely adolescent concerns, there are plentiful choices in place of this novel to support teens confronting these issues. Not recommended.-Jillian Woychowski, West Haven High School, CT

    Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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