Most helpful positive review
32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Book for Maturing Readers
on September 14, 2009
My thirteen-year-old started reading later than (used to be) average. I've been trying to find him books that catch his attention so much he can't stop reading. And if they also make him talk or ask questions about the book, so much the better.
The Girl Who Could Fly was perfect for this.
It is more science fiction than fantasy. The "girl" of the title is a rural child born late and unexpectedly to her parents. They are themselves strict conformists in their community and abashed at what they have given birth to, an otherwise lovely child who can, well, ahem, uh, ... fly. So they tell her to hide her ability so their neighbors won't talk. This part of the book is truly funny and I found myself reading sections of it aloud to my wife.
(It is especially nice how easy it is to read this book aloud. The language flows and makes the reader think that the author had it in mind that the book would be read aloud.)
After the first few chapters lay the background, there is a slightly awkward transition that changes the book's nature from fantasy to sci-fi. The government steps in and takes the girl away to a special "school". This is not a new idea for most juveniles today; and everyone will expect what happens next as the girl arrives at the not-as-benevolent-as-it-was-described center for people like her.
But this familiarity is not damaging. All stories have been told a thousand times; it is the telling that matters. And here the author does not fail us at all. We learn the hearts of all the characters; and we learn it in ways that constantly provoke insightful questions.
One reviewer quoted:
"CONRAD SILENTLY SEETHED, GETTING MADDER AND MEANER BY THE SECOND. AT THAT MOMENT,HE WAS MEANER AND MADDER THAN HE'D EVER BEEN,BUT MAINLY AT HIMSELF,WHICH IS THE WORST KIND OF MEAN AND MAD TO BE, BECAUSE THE ONLY THING TO DO ABOUT IT IS TO TAKE IT OUT ON SOMEONE ELSE."
I shared the same pleasure that reviewer had in the passage. What makes it truly special, though, is that it makes the attentive reader ask himself a question: "Is that how it really is? Is that what I do?"
In fact, from beginning to end, such questions arise. They come about naturally and without being threatening; but they lead to personal insight ... and great discussions between parent and child.
This is a wonderful book. What I find ironic is that what makes it wonderful is the very thing that made the reviewer for the ALA dislike it. She thought the book "told" too much rather than showing it; but what we are told is the interior confusion and complexity often masked by words and action. What comes out is usually a disguise for what happens within. Perhaps for mature readers, such subtleties are more easily unraveled; perhaps, not. But for new readers (and even readers like myself) there is a delightful sense of discovery and rightness with each new chapter.
By the way, if you read and enjoy this book (as did my son), other books I'd recommend for you and your children would be:
The Gregor the Overlander series and The Hunger Games series, both by Suzanne Collins.
The Airborn series and the Silverwing series and anything else by Kenneth Oppel.
Any of the teen-level books by Cornelia Funke.