Novel: Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker | Goodreads
Release Date: July 1, 2014
The best songs come from broken hearts.
Sixteen-year-old Bird Barrett has grown up on the road, singing backup in her family’s bluegrass band, and playing everywhere from Nashville, Tennesee to Nowhere, Oklahoma. One fateful night, Bird fills in for her dad by singing lead, and a scout in the audience offers her a spotlight all her own.
Soon Bird is caught up in a whirlwind of songwriting meetings, recording sessions, and music video shoots. Her first single hits the top twenty, and suddenly fans and paparazzi are around every corner. She’s even caught the eye of her longtime crush, fellow roving musician Adam Dean. With Bird’s star on the rise, though, tradition and ambition collide. Can Bird break out while staying true to her roots?
In a world of glamour and gold records, a young country music star finds her voice.
Wildflower is a giddy and clean look at a girl suddenly thrust into country music stardom. In a narrative studded with family moments and “y’all”s, the fun of it overshadows some cornier moments. Bird, our practically flawless main character, could apparently do no wrong — which would be frustrating if the book itself didn’t feel like a daydream, or if she were not so likable.
Her family was strict. She didn’t curse. Dates were strictly chaste. They prayed before every performance. Bird, for several reasons, could often come off as judgmental, but that all fit with the “good girl” branding of her label. Truthfully, it was enjoyable to read a book about the addictive qualities of fame that wasn’t scandalous. It made some of the scenarios that Bird found herself in to be much more compelling. Threw a little moral dilemma into the mix.
I loved that everything was infused with Southern culture, which doesn’t feel represented in many of the books I read. Not in the over-the-top way that I was craving.
Although there were definitely eye roll moments, the family itself was super sweet. Definitely not the situation of absentminded YA parents. Bird was grounded in plenty of ways. (Having read the sequel, that characteristic is more applicable to the first book than the second, but who could blame her?)
Bird kept a lot of secrets — mostly just her desires and inspirations. When her family considered a record deal, my favorite part of Wildflower was the yearning she described. Her family band had been together for years, and her choice would mean that they were out of a job. That particular circumstance meant that her solo career rippled into her siblings’ lives and caused resentment that fleshed out some scenes.
Scenes were well-constructed and exciting. Shooting a music video for the first time, hosting a launch party, hearing a single on the radio. Lots of young readers will live vicariously through Bird’s revels and learning experiences.
Wildflower was what I needed. That being said, there are several elements that I had to ignore.
For one, there’s very little conflict. That could be because the first book is a lot more of the setup for later novels. But still, even with the flashy settings and characters, not that much really happened. In trying to consider what the narrative arc is, the conflicts I can brainstorm feel much too small to propel the momentum for a book: Bird stressing out over which contract to sign, being worried about competition, fighting with her brothers. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure what the point was.
On that note, characters felt flat. Adam, the requisite love interest, was sweet and likable — like every other person painted to be “good” in the book, because it’s black and white for sure. It didn’t feel like there was enough backstory. Bird’s unrequited crush felt passionate (enough for her to write a song called “Notice Me”) but didn’t actually escalate beyond that when they got to actually (spoiler alert) go on a date. We never got to know Adam or have meaningful connection to him; I did see a spark.
Bird’s family, although effective as a unit, were individually just pieces of background noise. Her dad was a little less so, but that’s because he was clearly calling the shots. Even her friendship with Stella, the daughter of a woman who helped her write songs, materialized out of nowhere — instant best friends.
Pacing could have been better; certain parts dragged. Again, that goes back to the lack of real conflict and structure.
The overall tone felt earnest and fresh, which would be great for younger readers, those with strict family values, and those looking for a book you don’t have to work too hard within. A definite beach read full of dreamy moments. I enjoyed it enough to check out the second book from the library, and I’ll realistically read the third. Lighthearted.