Image Credits: Crowe’s Nest
I first heard of Evan Roskos’s debut novel, Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets through my alta mater, Rowan University. I graduated from Rowan University in December and I am still deeply connected to it. As an undergrad I studied both English and Writing Arts. Evan Roskos was an English professor at Rowan University, but sadly, not one I ever had a class from. However, I was still notified of his book release and signing at Rowan University through a series of emails sent by my former professors.
At the time, another one of my Writing Arts professors, Lisa Jahn-Clough was also celebrating the release of her new novel, Nothing But Blue. Professor Jahn-Clough was one of my favorite professors as an undergrad. Her writing children’s stories class taught me many valuable skills and helped to get me started writing my own young adult novel, Escape. When I found out that she would be having a book reading/signing at Barnes and Noble I knew I had to go. She was such a huge inspiration to me and I’d love to hear what she had to say about writing from the perspective of not a professor, but well, a writer. Rowan’s plans to combine Professor Jahn-Clough’s event with Professor Roskos’s just made me twice as excited. Two book readings/signings in one night from two different professors that both taught in my field? Count me in!
Image Credits: Amazon.com
So on the night of May 9, 2013 my boyfriend and I found ourselves at Rowan University for the two book signings and readings. I must admit that I was initially there primarily for Professor Jahn-Clough’s event since I didn’t even know Professor Roskos at the time, but once Professor Roskos mentioned the world “yawp”, I was glued. I consider myself to be a huge fan of Whitman and barbaric yawping. Any book that involves those two things is okay in my mind.
Image Credits: YoungAdultMag.com
Although I struggled to hear a bit at the readings (I’m hard of hearing, these things are frequently a challenge for me) I found myself purchasing Professor Rosko’s book and speaking to him and having him sign it anyway. I began reading it that night and quickly became hooked.
Image Credits: Blogger’s Own Photo
The cover of Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is very catchy. It looks just like John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars”, a book that I have not yet read but have heard many good things about. The title along with the short inside cover descriptions make James Whitman out to be an awkward teen filled with angst and unfortunate experiences. The novel sounds like a comedy that touches on serious issues.
Image Credits: Alpha Reader
After reading through the novel I feel that it was more serious than I initially expected it to be, but Roskos possesses the strong ability to add a hint of comedy in just the right places. This isn’t a novel about some psychotic teen that talks to birds as if they were human. This is a novel about human pain and suffering and feeling like a bird is the only one you have to converse with. It’s about truly believing that no one understands you or wants to help you.
Image Credits: EvanRoskos.com
This is a novel that shows the power of words. Walt Whitman is what keeps the ironically named James Whitman going. He analyzes passages of Leaves of Grass and always thinks to himself “What would Whitman Do?”. Roskos is able to take the 19th century words of Whitman and successfully apply it to his main character’s 21st century life in ways that are relevant, interesting, and show how we as individuals can stay connected to the words of our past ancestors.
But it’s not only our past ancestors we are connected to, it’s each other. As James struggles to find the truth about his sister Jorie and her expulsion from school he learns that she shares much of the same pain that he does. They are both two teens suffering through the throws of depression, anxiety, and angst. They learn that they are not as alone as they may feel and they now have each other for moral support. Together they are on the road of recovery.
Roskos does an excellent job painting a picture of what it is like to suffer through mental illness and to feel as if you are alone. Even in this 21st century world mental illness is often thought of as a “touchy” subject or not a “real” illness. Schools administrators are often too quick to dismiss those suffering as “problem” children and parents can even be un-supportive. Teens like Jorie may feel as though they are on the own to find peace, healing, and help. This is a novel that attempts to reach out to those teens to let them know that they can get through their fears, anxieties, and depression and make it through another day. This is a message to those teens that they are not as alone as they feel.
Evan Roskos’s debut novel was excellent. 5 out of 5 stars. I will be anxiously awaiting his follow up novel.