Published July 19th 2016 by Poppy
Then Dylan and Stella pair off as more than friends. Feeling left behind, Bird throws herself completely into her performances, cover shoots, and high-profile interviews. And the more she tries to distract herself with her career, the further she pushes everyone away-including her longtime crush, Adam Dean, who joined the tour as her opener. When Bird breaks down, she'll need help to find her footing again. But has she pushed everyone too far? In a life like this one, a country girl needs her family and friends-and maybe an old flame-most of all.
A foot-stompin' finale to Alecia Whitaker's irresistible Wildflower series.
Alecia Whitaker brings us back into country singer Bird Barrett's world, where she's about to go on her first national tour. Her second album is skyrocketing in the charts, and Bird decides to bring along brother Dylan and best friend Stella to help out, as she hits stages across the country.
However, romance, new tour mates and some publicity snafus, help ensure that this is a tour that Bird isn't likely to forget...
It was a little surreal reading The Way Back Home, because it just happened to be released during the middle of the Taylor Swift/Kim Kardashian snapchat storm. And as I've always seen Bird as the fictional equivalent to Taylor, it felt a little meta.
But oddly enough, that meta aspect actually helped me empathize with Taylor, while I was joining Bird on her journey. Because Whitaker does a fantastic job of breaking down the stressors that come with being a skyrocketing success, and the various personal and professional struggles that come with said success.
Bird vacillates between enjoying the perks of her fame - her fans; the VIP access that she gets to clubs - but Whitaker also increasingly stresses the fact that Bird's life is also no longer her own. Her behavior needs to be moderated and contained each and every time she is in public, and Whitaker is so good at emphasizing how claustrophobic that type of expectation can feel. This is especially true, when Dylan and Stella begin dating publicly, and Bird realizes that she doesn't have the same luxury.
Alongside that claustrophia, is the underlying emphasis on the idea that the narrative of stars like Bird can be skewed for controversy and shock value. The latter half of the book deals with the stressors of public expectation and the subsequent fallout when that expectation isn't met, and Whitaker skillfully shows how straining it can be to have society place so much expectation on a single individual.
There's a specific section where Bird more or less hits her breaking point, and I wanted to stand up and cheer when Bird makes the life-saving decision to put her needs above everyone else's. Whitaker does a fantastic job of explaining why that isn't a selfish decision, and how asking for self-care is imperative. It's such an important lesson for young readers to learn, and I applaud Whitaker for going there.
While the book does have an adorable romance with familiar face Adam Dean, I almost felt like it was secondary to Bird's overall journey. There was so much emphasis on Bird's growth and recognition of her new status as a role model and a musical symbol, that all of her interactions with Adam seemed to just (re)emphasize that fact.
All in all, it seems fitting that as the third and final book in the trilogy, this is the book where Bird learns how to deal with her fame and personal life, in a way that ensures a successful career for years to come. So even though readers may not meet up with Bird again, it's not difficult to imagine her still out there, with a music catalogue that will span the ages.
Highly recommend, full stop.
About the author:
Alecia Whitaker grew up on a small farm in Cynthiana, KY. She is the author of The Queen of Kentucky and the Wildflower series, as well as an actress with appearances on several television programs and commercials. She packs her schedule with school and library visits each year, near or far: www.aleciawhitaker.com/bookings. She currently lives in New York City with her husband and three children.