Cover of The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert. A stylized drawing of a Black girl with braids and sunglasses and a jean jacket

About the Book

Title: The Revolution of Birdie Randolph
Published: 2019

Cover Story: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Drinking Buddy: Know When to Say When
MPAA Rating: Adult Situations, Drug and Alcohol Use, Strong Language
Talky Talk: This Bird Will Fly
Bonus Factors: LGBTQ, Race Relations, Cool Aunt
Bromance Status: Party Host

Cover Story: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

There’s Birdie, with all her in-your-face, life to the fullest so long as it’s okay with her parents, sass. And this is clearly a book about a young, African-American woman, which is really needed on library shelves. Her braids reflect Birdie and her mother’s talent in styling hair, especially for African-Americans. In fact, there was a bit too much hair discussion in the book for this male reviewer.

The Deal: Sixteen-year-old Dove ‘Birdie’ Randolph lives in a nice Chicago neighborhood. Her father is a sports physician for the Bulls, and her mother owns her own beauty salon. Her parents are determined that Birdie be successful and stay out of trouble. She’s to spend her summer studying for the SATs. No parties. No road trips. They encouraged her to date Mitchell, the nerdy son of her mother’s friend, and keep suggesting that they get back together.

Birdie doesn’t dare tell them about Booker, the new boy in her life. Sweet and tough, he’s exactly the sort of guy she needs right now. The thing is, Booker had a run in with the law a while ago and spent some time in juvie. There is no way in hell her parents, especially her mother, would allow Birdie to hang out with a guy like that.

Enter Carlene, her mother’s sister. Birdie hasn’t seen her aunt in years. Carlene has spent the last couple of decades in and out of rehab, making terrible life choices. But she swears she’s sobered up, and Birdie’s mother allows her to stay with the family while she trains for her stylist’s license. And in Carlene, Birdie finds the adult figure she’s longed for: someone fun, carefree, and willing to treat Birdie like a human, and not as an extension of her parents. But will Carlene’s permissiveness go too far? Can Birdie prove she can handle adult responsibilities or will she need to rebel against her parents completely?

Drinking Buddy: Know When to Say When

Two pints of beer cheersing

Birdie is the classic example of a kid whose parents will regret being so overprotective. All she wants to do is hang out with her boyfriend, go to a couple of parties, and maybe not study every moment of every day. And of course this drives her to make poor choices. She has a drink at a party. Her mother finds out, and she winds up grounded for a month. So when she finally gets ungrounded…she drinks again. Just to cut loose, not because she enjoys it.

Birdie is trying to establish her own identity, while chaffing against her loving parents who are about to lose their daughter if they don’t loosen the leash. I cheered for Birdie’s poor decisions, just because she was socking it to her parents.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (Adult Situations, Drug and Alcohol Use, Strong Language)

Booker makes it clear that he would like to go further with Birdie, but at the same time, he also makes it clear that he’s willing to wait. Birdie certainly likes him, but she knows her mother would have kittens if she found out they’d been messing around. But then again, it’s not her mother’s choice. And she’d kind of like to show her mother that she cannot be controlled. Meanwhile, fun Aunt Carlene is urging Birdie to go for it, and taking her to get birth control. Birdie literally has two adults giving her conflicting advice, and none of it is good. Is it any wonder Birdie feels like rebelling?

Talky Talk: This Bird Will Fly

Yes, the plot is kind of cliche: smart, driven teen chafing under the yoke of her loving but overprotective parents. The bad boy who’s the right boy. Teenage shenanigans. But some very real characters make this book a page turner. Caught between her humorless mother and her irresponsible aunt, Birdie is forced to think for herself for the first time. Is she going to allow herself to become a perfect med student like her older sister, Mimi? Or will she cut loose a little and have some fun? Her twerpish ex, Mitchell, has taken to drinking, vaping, and most alarming of all, wearing t-shirts since their breakup. Why can’t Birdie have a little freedom as well?

One of the biggest challenges of growing up is tossing aside the safety net that your parents have laid for you. Nets can save you, but they can also ensnare. And this bird you cannot cage….

(A quick googling of the lyrics shows that the words are actually ‘and this bird you cannot change‘. My life is a lie.)

Bonus Factor: LGBTQ

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Birdie’s best friend Laz is just coming to grips with his sexuality, and has started dating a white guy named Greg. Birdie’s sister is a lesbian. Her parents don’t object, but they’re not exactly hanging up rainbow flags either. The book does a good job of portraying the gay experience in a society that may accept you, while individuals may not.

Bonus Factor: Race Relations

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Birdie comes from a fairly well to do family. She’s on the fast track to college, to a career, to a good life. That’s why her parents, especially her mother, are determined to keep her on that track.

But the thing is, they’re not only a successful family. They’re a successful Black family, and sometimes that takes extra effort. They get odd looks in their nice neighborhood. Booker’s father assumes Birdie is going to wind up pregnant. And when Bridie and her friends are busted for underage drinking (See? See? Why didn’t you listen to my advice, fictional character who can’t really hear me?), there’s a big difference in how they’re treated. Booker and Laz are handcuffed, while Birdie, Mitchell, and Greg are not. Greg, a white boy, immediately sees the injustice and starts demanding that he be cuffed and frisked along with his boyfriend. Birdie, however, realizes that this is also part of his privilege: if he were Black, he wouldn’t dare smart off to the cops.

Bonus Factor: Cool Aunt

Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show

Birdie is having a harder and harder time relating to her controlling parents, and is ready to break the rules just to spite them. What’s the point of being a good kid if they still won’t trust you? Enter Aunt Carlene. Birdie doesn’t know much about her, other than she’s had little to do with the family, due to her struggles with drugs and alcohol. But here she is, clean and sober, looking to get her cosmetology license while mentoring another addict.

Birdie’s mother reluctantly allows her sister to stay with them. Birdie can’t figure out why Aunt Carlene is such a pariah. I mean, she’s cleaned herself up, she convinces her mother to lighten up on the discipline, and she gives Birdie some advice about life. But both Carlene and her sister are very vague about the past, and an overheard conversation makes Birdie wonder if she’s been told the whole truth.

Bromance Status: Party Host

I almost felt I wasn’t cool enough to pick up this book, but it made me feel welcome when I crashed its party.

Literary Matchmaking

Puddin’ (Dumplin’ #2)

Julie Murphy’s Puddin deals with another good girl fighting with her strict but well-meaning mother.

The Hate U Give (The Hate U Give #1)

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, is a much bleaker look at the world of race relations.

Killing Time in Crystal City

A boy is enamored with his cool, wild uncle in Killing Time in Crystal City, by Chris Lynch.

FTC full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, but no money or rum and Cokes.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.