I very much enjoyed Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. It’s a coming of age story about a teenager, James Whitman, who is depressed and a huge Walt Whitman fan. His sister has been expelled from school and kicked out of the house by their parents.
James wants therapy for his anxiety and depression but his father does not believe in it. So James talks to his imaginary therapist, Dr. Bird, a pigeon who responds by cooing, bobbing her head, and preening her feathers.
In addition to his unsettled home life, James deals with the usual issues at school – fitting in, the girl he has a crush on, homework. He has a best friend he does not always get along with. Serious issues like suicide and cutting surface in the book, but there is plenty of humor as well. His boss at the pizza joint, the girl he has a crush on, and his parents are all believable characters.
There are many references to Walt Whitman’s poetry, but don’t let that put you off. I’m not particularly a Whitman fan, and the references told me something about James without any familiarity on my part. I found one circumstance in the book unbelievable. James and his sister are physically abused by their parents but no one seems to have alerted the authorities. However, James has a very credible voice overall, and the narrative pulled me in.
If you like coming of age novels or realistic fiction set today, I recommend Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets. It reminded me in good ways of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.