Monday, March 02, 2015

Review: How to Fly with Broken Wings

Book Cover: How to Fly with Broken Wings by Jane Elson How to Fly with Broken Wings by Jane Elson
Published March 2014 by Hachette Children's Books
Source: review copy from NetGalley

'If Finn Maison shouts jump you jump or you are dead.'

Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk—and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Barton gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend?

Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. As he flies through the air he flaps his arms, wishing he could fly and escape into the clouds. Instead he comes crashing down and breaks his ankle.

Sasha, angry with herself for not stopping Finn and his Boyz, is determined to put things right. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.

And when Magic Man Archie arrives with stories of war-flying spitfires, he will change the lives of the kids on the Beckham Estate for ever. And perhaps find a way for Willem and Sasha to fly ...

Touching on themes such as friendship and bullying, this is a charming tale about overcoming obstacles and finding friendship in unlikely places.

My Thoughts

I found it interesting that the book description begins with “Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome ...” and yet there's absolutely no mention of Aspergers in the book. Rather, the reader is left to recognize Willem's difference from his classmates through his behavior and his first person narrative in How to Fly with Broken Wings. And, I'd rather that the writer of the blurb had kept it to herself that Willem has Aspergers. I know that I read the blurb when I first chose the book to read and review, but I had forgotten it by the time I started reading, which allowed me to discover Willem's quirks without expectations. (One reviewer complained that Willem was “not like any asperger kids that I've ever know or read...”.)

So, with that said, what is How to Fly with Broken Wings all about? It's about Willem and his challenge to make friends with two kids his own age. It's about Sasha, a girl who becomes his first friend. It's about Finn, TJ, and Laurence, three boys who bully Willem. It's about living in low-income housing. It's about gangs and riots. And, fortunately, it's about hope.

I thoroughly enjoyed How to Fly with Broken Wings. It will be released on 5 March in the UK. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that the book has been picked up by a US publisher. And that's tragic. Jane Elson's story has a message that transcends national boundaries. I know there are kids in the US who could benefit from meeting Willem and seeing the world through his eyes.


Note that I received a free copy of How to Fly with Broken Wings from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

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