Chicken Girl by Heather Smith | ARC Review & Blog Tour
Publication: Penguin Teen Canada
Release date: March 5, 2019
How I got the copy: Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers
Chicken Girl follows, Poppy, a used to be optimist that losses her sense of individuality and sparkle from being bullied online, which causes her to hide and leave the vintage clothes that she loves to wear in her closet instead. Poppy is a fat teenager that loves her towns historic houses and vintage clothes from the 40’s. She has a twin brother, Cam, who’s openly gay and who seems to always supports her, even after she starts to pull away from who she truly is.
That following summer, Poppy accepts a part-time job being an anonymous sign waver outside a restaurant dressed as a chicken, hence the title of the book, as a temporary escape from being herself, which is where she meets six-year-old Miracle. Miracle helps Poppy unintentionally see her life in a clearer perspective. Poppy notices and becomes curious to who Miracle is and why she’s wondering around by herself after school and why she hanging out under the bridge. That’s when Poppy realizes Miracle is being taken care of by the community while her single mother works.
I really enjoyed the first quarter of Chicken Girl but I find the rest of the story starts to lose it’s sparkle after a certain point. There’s so much good in this book and many different well represented characters but there’s also several aspects that I did not enjoy. First off, there’s graphic online content that Poppy watches to punish herself that involves animals and other people. I don’t understand how the bullying she receives over one photo would lead Poppy, a person who was full of life and happiness, would turn to this type of punishment. I find it inappropriate and aggressive. Secondly, Poppy starts dating Buck, Miracle’s 20-year-old homeless friend, who’s not kind to her and also bullies her… but she doesn’t hate him for it. Why? I’m not sure, maybe because he has a British accent and is charming af, apparently. Cause I don’t see it. How could I almost forget, Poppy and Buck sleep together very quickly and don’t practice safe-sex.
We get to know the characters enough but I didn’t feel it was enough to really connect with any of them. Miracle’s probably my favourite character within the entire book and it’s because she’s so young and has so much life in her. Even though she’s dealt with an unfortunate childhood, she’s happy with the people she has around and she’s strong-willed. Poppy I didn’t like so much, she’s selfish and self-centered and, yes, she grows by the end of the book but I was left with wanting to know more about how she grows with her brother, love interest, and herself.
Many more characters show up in the book like Lewis, a teen caring for his sick father, and in the final stages of gender transitioning, Thumper, an older homeless man (and ex-con) filled with guilt, Mr. Chen, the restaurant owner/Poppy’s boss, and Eve, classmate/roller derby skater/Poppy’s friend. I don’t think we get enough of Eve in Chicken Girl. She reaches out to Poppy in her darkest days and in a way could have balanced Poppy’s story with some normalcy.
I know, it all seems so bizarre and it is but it makes more sense when reading the book as a whole. I’d still say there’s a lot going on for the length of the book but there’s an important message within it.
Trigger warning: bullying, animal abuse, sexual abuse.
*A copy of this book was provided by Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers in exchange for an honest review*