Book Review: On the Way to Birdland

On the Way to Birdland by Frank Morelli

Published: 8th of June 2021

Genre: contemporary, YA

TW: drug abuse, PTSD, depression


Self-proclaimed teenage philosopher Cordell Wheaton lives in a sleepy, southern town where nothing ever happens; not since his hero, jazz musician John Coltrane, left some seventy years earlier to “follow the sound.” Cordy’s life has been unraveling since the night his father and his brother, Travis, exploded on each other. The night Travis’s addiction transformed him from budding musician into something entirely different. The night Travis took his saxophone and disappeared. When Cordy’s father falls ill, the sixteen-year-old vows to reunite the Wheaton family. He embarks on a modern-day odyssey with forty bucks in his pocket and a dream to find his brother and convince him to be Travis again—by taking him to a show at Birdland Jazz Club in New York City, and reminding him of the common bonds they share with their legendary hero. Cordy’s journey is soon haunted by ghostly visions, traumatic dreams, and disembodied voices that echo through his mind. He starts to wonder if the voices are those of the fates, guiding him toward his destiny—or if he’s losing his grip on reality.

Goodreads / Amazon

FRANK MORELLI is the author of the young adult novel, NO SAD SONGS (2018), a YALSA Quick Picks nominee, a VOX top Hopepunk title, and winner of an American Fiction Award for best coming-of-age novel. His middle grade ‘Please Return To‘ series, features Norbert M. Finkelstein and Toby Solano, and provides young readers with a roadmap to stop bullying. Morelli’s short fiction has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Cobalt Review, Philadelphia Stories, and Highlights Magazine.

Website / Goodreads / Twitter

First and foremost, I would like to thank the author for giving me the opportunity to dive into this throughoutly enjoyable and enlightening book. That didn’t have an effect on my opinions though.

On the Way to Birdland follows the story of sixteen years old Cordy on his self-discovery journey as he travels from his hometown in North Carolina to NYC (Birdland Jazz Club to be precise).

Cordy is trying to find and bring back his brother Travis who had a year prior run off to Birdland, or at least that’s what Cordy hopes for. Why Birdland?! It’s where the legend John Coltrane thrived after moving from North Carolina, he’s the glue that ties Travis and Cordy‘s bond together and he (Cordy) hopes that it will help him bring his brother back.

Throughout reading this book, I instantly connected with Cordy and found myself fully engaged in the story.

I particularly liked how Frank managed to portray such an eventful story without overwhelming the reader. It was quite flawless; the way he managed to mix and weave things together without it sounding awkward. There wasn’t an instant where I felt like things were fast or slow/boring or that things don’t add up.

The plot was really well-written and I truly enjoyed how things ended. The last chapter(s) reminded of another book I’ve read last year though… Not necessarily a bad thing… I even found there’s some similarities between the two books. Again, this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy either of them because I really did!

Now, let’s see why you should definitely read this book:

  • It is very very well-written
  • Cordy is on an exciting adventure to reunite his family, he needs all the encouragement he can get 🙂
  • It talks (not in a gruesome overwhelming way… but don’t feel pressured to read it if you’re not comfortable about these things) about some topics such as PTSD, depression ,and drug abuse
  • There are all sorts of characters with different rich backgrounds!
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