REVIEW: Billy Purgatory: I Am the Devil Bird (Billy Purgatory, #1) by Jesse James Freeman

Copyright 2014 Jesse James Freeman
Copyright 2014 Jesse James Freeman

I reviewed this novel once before, but 1. It was a shitty review, 2. I know it was a shitty review because 3. I loved the book, I just didn’t really know why at the time, and 4. I’m getting ready to finally read book two (I’m probably the last one left in the universe, but it’s one of those books I’ve been saving).

So I read it start to finish today (yay for being sick!), and think I have a little more to say about it (like I do with everything).

The mythological story starts out with a message from Artemis:

“It’s as much a mystery to me as I’m sue it will be to you why I have watched the boy, Billy Purgatory, and his family for so long. Perhaps I’ve studied so many clearly defined heroes and villains for so many thousands of years that I can’t tell the difference between one and the other any longer. Perhaps I’m insanely and effectively bored.”

which is really where my review stemmed from, wherein I exclaimed It’s about human nature if we had the capability to escape our bodies and take the stairway to the stars in an effort to watch ourselves. I think if we could do that, we could see how stupid we are being, all the time. I thought the perspectives were brilliant. I still do.


What I don’t think is brilliant, is the majority of the reaction via the reviews of this book. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when readers exclaimed that Billy is such a badass, and this book is such a thrill ride, and it’s so funny, and so forth.

None of that is what this book is about to me. Like at all. Which perturbs me as a reader and an active member of a literary community, because there is barely any mention of the literary and intellectual value that this novel offers. I’m not sure if I am one of few that “gets it” because I contemplate basically everything–specifically lines of text–for hours, or if society has lost their ability to think about anything at all.

The cover and the blurb is about a boy/young man who is a badass skater; however, the book…is not. Billy’s skateboard is the only thing that keeps him grounded throughout his entire terrifying, emotional journey. It is the only thing he’s good at, including loving people. It is symbolic to the staple of his existence.

The author has expert style, in both storytelling and development. The mind of ten-year-old Billy is so believable that it is unbelievable that Freeman didn’t write this when he was ten. The formula of a book that we, as authors, are taught never to break is broken a thousand times over in this novel, but not in a bad way. Freeman breaks all the rules without the reader knowing it because again, as with the skateboard and Billy’s badass interior, he hides everything under a veil of comedy and horror to throw people to the fact that he is actually telling a meaningful story and not one about a complete dumbass. And that’s really what the epitome of this book–and, I can only assume–series, is: a meaningful, emotional, painful story about a young boy who is left by everyone he crosses paths with time and time again and his near-failure to survive it, building up to the lesson that no one can save us but ourselves. I mean yeah, Billy is a total badass and yes, he’s really good at beating the shit out of people (and mythological creatures), but where has that ever gotten anyone? Billy is literally torn up inside throughout half the novel of all the loss and pain he has endured, and no one in–or out–the book gives a shit. He is hollow. I feel really bad for him.

Authors like myself and select others tell a story with the in-your-face pain, hiding nothing from the world, but Freeman has a way of telling the same story (it is he that would tell you that we are all just telling the same story over again; it’s all about how you choose to tell it) without making the people like Billy Purgatory that don’t get it–it being the meaning of life and survival–feel bad about themselves, and I guess that’s what makes him a better writer, and storyteller. The ability to tell endless stories in one, while making people think the meaning is obvious, when it is not.

In that regard, he is a badass in his own right, and so is this book. Just not in the way that everyone thinks. Which makes it even better, in a very Vonnegut way.

Special thanks to the author for making me into a fucking hipster.

***I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***The author is my boyfriend, which is also irrelevant.

coffee6Allie Burke is the no-makeup-wearing, simultaneous-YA-and-Vonnegut-loving, Nike-obsessed bestselling author and acclaimed Selfie Queen of the Universe. She’s written in various forms for an indeterminable amount of time, climbing up the Amazon charts and ultimate geekery from small time book-reviewer to literary editor, until the authory culture pushed her off the bridge of artistic literature.

She now writes shit she’ll probably never publish, never shuts up about John Green, only reads books she wasn’t asked to review, and drinks coffee at all the wrong times.

She is the creator of Organic Coffee, Haphazardly.


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