About the Author:
Heather Smith is originally from Newfoundland, and now lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Her east coast roots inspire much of her writing. Her previous novel, The Agony of Bun O’Keefe, received a starred review from Kirkus and Quill & Quire and was named a best book of 2017 by Kirkus, Bank Street College of Education, The Globe & Mail, and Quill & Quire (honorable mention), as well as selected as an Outstanding International Book by USBBY (United States Board on Books for Young People).
About the Book:
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.
Review of ‘Chicken Girl’, by Heather Smith
Maggie’s story is a forgettable, unforgettable story. That’s because in a way, it is everyone’s story. It may not have been on Reddit, it may not even have been online, but it’s safe to say that everyone has been through something that made them want to hide, something so horrible when it happened that we would also have taken a job requiring us to wear a chicken outfit, if it would hide us from the world.
Although it takes quite an interesting turn, what happened to Maggie is really relatable, and I think there is a need for these kinds of stories. What happened to her cut her to the core, but, once she moved by it, it didn’t seem like as much of a big deal. She grew because of it, and went onto being a better version of herself. By focusing on super dramatic cyber bullying stories, we tend to forget the smaller ones, thus paving the way for the former—kind of like when catcalling becomes the normal.
But no bullying is acceptable, and by delving into the pain of a relatively innocuous act (compared to what happened for Rehtaeh Parsons, Amanda Todd, Mitchell Wilson, Jamie Hubley, or other teens for example), we remember that it is by eliminating these smaller acts of cyberbullying that we can eliminate the big ones.
Heather Smith also made a very wise choice in the type of bullying that occurred because sometimes, the best way to make a profound point on a complex issue, is the simplest one: a straightforward story about a girl who is the victim of cyberbullying by a stranger. By making Poppy the victim of an unknown Reddit user, Heather Smith removes so many other complicating factors from the story, making it quite, albeit relatively, simple: how the act of cyberbullying a stranger anonymously can cause such profound pain.
The book is very well written and an easy and quick read. It introduces a host of characters that will grow on readers. The twin themes of hope and despair are also covered, weaved into the story of Maggie’s healing in a non-patronizing, natural, and blunt way, as we discover some of the heart-breaking things that people go through in their lives.
Heather Smith’s Chicken Girl is an easy and heartwarming read that helps shed light on the consequences of the seemingly innocuous act of making fun of someone online, and the story of how someone can move from being self-centered to being gloriously aware of what surrounds us—both the good and the bad.