This book is...different. As a small white female growing up in a typical Christian family in McFarland, it's hard for me to even begin to comprehend what Birdie has gone through. Where Birdie's parents are divorced, mine are still together and have the loving kind of relationship I want to have with my future husband. Where Birdie never sees her father and sister, I see both of my parents almost every day, and see my siblings almost as often. Where Birdie fights with her mom all the time, I get along very well with all of my family. Where Birdie has been faced with racial persecution on numerous occasions, and had to deal with racism, the greatest persecution I've faced so far is for being short, which isn't really all that bad since I don't really care about that. Where Birdie has been repeatedly uprooted and moved from place to place I've lived in McFarland my entire life. Where Birdie drinks and smokes, and her friends do likewise, my friend group and I have always avoided these habits.
The point is, this book isn't very relatable to me. I don't know what it's like for every adult character in my life to be a creeper, or what it's like for Birdie when a lot of that other stuff happens to her. However, this book is still extremely well written, and despite the fact my innocent and probably naive little head can't wrap itself around the idea of facing the issues that Birdie has, I can still feel for her and connect with her. That's really what makes this book so good. Birdie and I have almost nothing in common, outside of our age groups, but Danzy Senna has an amazing talent for connecting us to the feelings of rebellion or angst or sadness or happiness that all teens are at least on some level familiar with. I can't imagine running away from home, but I can relate to Birdie's frustration on a small level. I would never go out and get wasted on the weekend, but I can understand Birdie's want for social interaction. That's really the key to being a good writer: putting relatable characters in non relatable situations.
I have a really really good life that's never been anywhere near as chaotic as Birdie's, for which I am eternally thankful, and I know a lot of kids, even ones from McFarland face some of the problems that Birdie has in her life, but I think the point is, Danzy Senna can let even kids like me see what's it's like to be in somebody else's shoes, if only for a moment, and that's what's so cool about her writing.