I checked out Angela Johnson's Bird after reading Sweet, Hereafter because I thought it was another part of the Heaven trilogy, but that was just a relic of strange book advertising. It's a lucky mistake, because this time I got it. I felt the characters were real, the emotions strong, and the ending powerful. Three kids struggle with loss and renewal, linked together by a runner, a man who inspires them but then heads away.
It's a book that I bet reads very differently for kids than for adults. As an adult, I resented runner Cecil's habit of abandoning the kids, but as a child I would have seen him less as a person and more as a tool for the growth of the real characters, the young people. Adults were just scenery, obstacles, and reference points, not characters with motivations of their own. Now that I'm one of those adults, I tend to hold them to a higher standard. And I worry more about the kids. A-