This originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers, and is republished here with permission.
Miriam Black, the protagonist of Blackbirds, has the Dead Zone-ish ability to see a person’s future when she touches him or her, but Chuck Wendig takes it one step further by having her foresee only how and when the person dies. She becomes a grifter, paying visits to people she knows will kick the bucket and then taking their money so she can pay for food and shelter until her next target dies. Things get complicated when she runs into Ashley, a punk who wants in on her game, and meets Louis, a kindhearted truck driver whom she sees murdered in the near future while he utters her name. Does she somehow bring about his murder? And how can she stop it when the last time she tried preventing one of her visions, she ended up causing the death?
Wendig’s dark and twisty adventure is filled with misfit characters who defy easy stereotypes. Miriam is self-destructive, but she’s doing the best she can to survive the difficult hand life has dealt her. Louis, big as Frankenstein, shows Miriam more sweetness than she’s ever experienced. Stone-cold killer Harriet has a scene that makes readers understand her first kill; her story is even funny the first time it’s told.
Wendig inserts surprising moments of humanity among all the profanity. There’s a tale of a little boy and his balloon that should crack readers’ hearts. And despite fate being hell-bent on keeping her down, Miriam’s stubborn struggle to change it makes Blackbirds take flight.
Nerd verdict: Black, twisty tale with as much humanity as profanity