I can’t watch scary movies. In fact, I’m such a wuss I can’t even watch movies that are supposed to be parodies of scary movies, or even have scary violins in them. I always blame it on the fact that we lived off of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, with scary hangy-over-the-road trees, but it probably stems more from me being kind of a sheltered wimp. I wasn’t allowed to read the Goosebumps books as a kid because they would give me nightmares (this isn’t verified of course, since I didn’t actually read them, but my mom said they were satanic, just like Clifford and Harry Potter, and I was too frightened by the bookcovers to argue).
My mom probably wouldn’t have let me read The Aviary either, because it has a pretty grim looking cover, and the font is kind of gothic, and birds are the minions of the devil, probably. But this is pretty much the only type of ‘scary’ I can handle.
Scary-For-Prepubescents. That’s about my limit.
I always battle with myself whether to read the back copy or not, since the majority of the time the back copy (much like my blog posts) gives away most of the story. So, to compromise, I just skimmed it, and went into the book knowing that the birds in the giant aviary in the Clara’s backyard were once children (hey! Don’t blame me for ruining it for you—they shouldn’t have put it in the synopsis!).
There are many things I like about this book, one of them being that it’s not a series. I’m tired of having to read multiple books just to find out how they overthrow the corrupt dystopian government. This was a breath of fresh air.
The story goes a little something like this:
Clara lives in the rickety old Glendoveer mansion with her mother, the housekeeper Ruby, and elderly Mrs. Glendoveer. Clara can’t run and play, go to school, or even have any friends her own age, because she has a weak heart. She enjoys spending time with Mrs. Glendoveer, though, reading, and walking in the garden. What she doesn’t like though, is the loud, screeching birds in the backyard aviary–who particularly seem to single her out with their vocalizations. The rest of the household puts up with the feathered crew because Mrs. Glendoveer is so fond of them. They belonged to her late husband, a magician, and she seems vaguely, well, maternal towards them.
Clara can’t help but feel like the birds are paying particular attention to her, and she knows she’s not just imagining it when one of them speaks to her. Sure, it just mutters a name, Elliot, but when repeated to Mrs. Glendoveer, Clara discovers that Elliot was her son that was lost when he was just a baby. Intriguing, no?
Then Mrs. Glendoveer dies. There, there, she was old. That’s what old people do. They die. (sorry). Anyway, with Mrs. Glendoveer gone, Clara, her mother, and Ruby are unsure of what will happen to them, and one of the birds has been trying to urgently tell Clara something in Latin. On the bright side, Clara has sort of made friends with a girl that passes by the house every day on her way to school. After spotting her in the window, the girl (Daphne), begins leaving notes for Clara, and eventually they work out a system of secret meetings.
Daphne is an important ally for Clara, especially now that she has a sneaking suspicion that the birds in the aviary are not quite birds…and that they are trying to warn her of a similar fate. I won’t completely ruin the book for you by telling you why the children became birds, but for me, the best part of the book was when I was unsure which adults could be trusted–was Mrs. Glendoveer not quite the sweet old biddy you’d been led to believe? Clara’s mother has been lying to her, does she have a darker motive?
I really enjoyed the story, and the plot was nicely set up with good suspense and pacing. The ending was a bit hokey, but there wasn’t much to help with that. It would be just ‘scary’ enough for the 8-12 set, or for any 27 year-olds that are afraid of the dark.