Miriam Black knows when you will die.
Still in her early twenties, she’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, suicides, and slow deaths by cancer. But when Miriam hitches a ride with truck driver Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be gruesomely murdered while he calls her name.
Miriam has given up trying to save people; that only makes their deaths happen. But Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim. No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.
I wouldn’t mind being BFFs with Miriam Black. Or maybe taking life lessons from her. On the other hand, maybe she’s just a little too intense & intimidating for me. She’s foul mouthed, snarky, and borderline mean. She’s also an awesome main character. In a world of kindly, naive or sweet female heroines she’s a breath of fresh foul air. She swears. She lies. She has sex. She fights. She’s as likely to make a dick joke as she is to say anything else (and while I’ve read a couple of reviews where this has been a problem for female readers – citing that it makes Miriam seem like she was written by a man – this honestly didn’t bother me. Maybe I’m hanging out with a bad crowd).
Blackbirds has a really cool premise, IMO. The idea that if Miriam touches someone she can see their deaths may not be entirely unique, but the idea that she uses this talent for nefarious purposes and her own profit is a really interesting twist. Miriam isn’t a do-gooder. She’s not out to save the world with her magical ability. She’s looking out for number one, always. She also actually says the word “shrug” out loud instead of just shrugging, and I’ve never known anyone other than me who did that. So I felt kind of an odd affinity for her, even though our lives are absolutely nothing alike.
I like Wendig’s style. The dialog is snappy and the prose packs quite a punch. There isn’t a lot of extraneous verbiage or flowery prose. One thing that struck me while I was reading is that if the tv show The Wire had been a book, it would have been a lot like Blackbirds. On the surface they have absolutely nothing in common, but both have a gritty quality about them.
I will say that if you’re offended by sex or profanity you should probably give this one a pass. It’s quite profane. This doesn’t bother me a bit. The only thing that did bother me slightly was the use of the word “retard” but I can’t say that it didn’t fit the tone of the book.
I’m not sure this is YA – in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not – but it might be ok for an older reader of YA or new adult. If you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path that walks the line of good taste (and I mean that as a compliment) it’s worth a read. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
Also worth a mention – how amazing is that cover?