Blackbird Flies by Chynna T. Laird
Fifteen year-old Payton MacGregor is a musical prodigy. To him, though, his music is merely a way for him to escape from the chaos that surrounds him. All of his life, he’s had to care for his mother, who copes with her bipolar disorder with booze instead of turning to her own musical talents. He refuses to become a statistic. Then he’s thrown a curve ball.
His mother suddenly dies, leaving him to be cared for by his aging grandparents. As much as they love him, they decide to send him halfway across Canada to live with his father, Liam—the man Payton always believed abandoned him and his mother. Payton isn’t making the relocation easy on anyone until he finds out he’s going to attend the prestigious School of the Arts for musically gifted youth. Any second thoughts he has about his new life are erased when he meets Lily Joplin. Their connection is instantaneous.
Lily is a talented singer, but her struggles with drugs and bipolar disorder hit too close to home for Payton’s comfort. And when her issues become all-consuming, he wonders if his music will be enough to carry him through.
I loved the premise of this book—a young man with a shattered background heads off to reclaim a part of his heritage he thought was lost forever. His troubled mother dies and Payton is shipped to live with his father, a man he’s never known. To complicate things, his father already has a family, complete with a stepmother and siblings Payton’s never met.
This is a coming-of-age novella with an important message. Payton must embrace his past and his musical gifts before he can move forward. I loved how Payton holds on to his values throughout the story. He doesn’t really know how to interact with his new family, but despite his inner conflicts he treats his younger half-siblings well. His relationship with his father and stepmother opens like a flower, but not without bumps and bruises along the way. When he meets the beautiful Lily, Payton feels an overwhelming attraction, but he doesn’t take ownership of her problems. In many ways, Payton is a prodigy not just in music…he often seems wise beyond his years.
Blackbird Flies is a lovely story, brushing up against mental illness and drug abuse issues. Like the haunting chorus of a beautiful song, the parallels between Payton’s mother and Lily play off against one another. No spoilers here, but Payton is challenged time and time again as he struggles to find the right path. This novella, gritty in places, is well worth a read.
– S.G. Rogers