All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
Tor Books, 2017; 320pp
Reviewed by Kelly Lucero
In All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, the war between science and magic rages on when Patricia, a witch discovering her powers, and Laurence, an engineering prodigy, find solace from the bullying of their schoolmates in each other. Anders skillfully builds a world that is so familiar to that of today that the differences—magical spells and time machines that transport users two seconds into the future—aren’t jarring for the reader. With Anders’s use of humor, melancholy themes, and downright weirdness, it’s no wonder All the Birds in the Sky is a national bestseller.
The book starts with a six-year-old Patricia as she discovers her ability to speak to birds and, perhaps even more shocking, she learns that they can reply. As the novel progresses, Patricia struggles to find a place where she fits in. For example, at home her parents continually express their disappointment in her, often telling her that she is a disappointment. Further, Patricia must also deal with constant tormenting from her older sister. School is not any better. While there, Patricia deals with the incessant bullying from her peers. It isn’t until she is in middle school that Patricia meets Laurence, the closest thing she’ll ever have to a friend. She and Laurence find comfort from the constant bullying in each other, but because Patricia is a witch and Laurence is a scientist, they find that the world is desperately trying to keep them apart. This causes the two friends (who are really meant to be lovers) to drift in and out of each other’s lives. However, when the fate of the world is at stake, the two must learn to work together, bridging the gap between science and magic, to prevent the world’s obliteration.
Anders buries melancholy themes (like child abuse and bullying) in her use of humor, which allows readers to feel a variety of emotions throughout the novel. It is her ability to invoke these different emotions that makes the book a great read. As I read this novel, I was not invested in the plot so much as I was in the characters. After witnessing the negative ways people treat Patricia and Laurence, my only hope was that they would continue to support each other throughout the novel. The ending does not disappoint.