Title: How to Fly with Broken Wings
Author: Jane Elson
Release Date: March 3
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Source: Hachette Children’s Books on NetGalley (A copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.)
Check this book out on Goodreads.
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. (Source: Goodreads)
Willem wants to fly, but he doesn’t want to jump. Finn Mason makes him jump constantly. On this day when he jumps he breaks his leg. And it inspires Sasha to comes and save him. Sasha also wants to fly, and together they will. The pair meets Magic Man, Archie, who tells them about his mother, an ATA pilot from WWII, and the planes they flew. Together the trio will inspire the entire neighbourhood to improve. And maybe Sasha and Willem will really learn to fly.
This story is cute and sweet, but it isn’t touching or heartbreaking in the way that it should be. The tone is flat and straightforward and doesn’t inspire the kind of sobbing one would expect from a story about bullying, rioting, and death. There was also a lot going on, like way too much going on. There are too many plots all competing with each other which leads to lots of climaxes and not enough slower, lower moments in the book. This leads to a book full of action that always feels flat. This book had a lot of potential, but it didn’t live up to it.
The main plot of the book is Willem, an autistic child, trying to make friends. He is bullied by Finn. Finn’s girlfriend, Sasha, becomes friends with Willem. This leads to the second plot, they restore an old plane with Archie, the man who runs a repair shop in their building. This leads to a third plot about rioting in their neighbourhood, with two rival gangs warring against each other. This leads to a fourth romance plot with Archie and Willem’s Gran. It’s a lot of stuff. There is never a dull moment in this book. I think that while the plots were meant to be touching and inspiring they really fall flat. You should be touched by a boy overcoming his bullies, making friends, having a family, and recuperating from a childhood of torment. This book doesn’t even begin to make you feel it. There are too many highs in this book. There are constant climaxes of action, right from page one to the end. This leaves the highs all feeling flat. It also leads to weird pacing because moments that should be longer, are shortened, and short moments are lengthened. It all just felt a little messy. It felt a little like…Elson tried to fit too many plots into one book. Lots of plots can totally work (Melina Marchetta does a mean multiplot book in On the Jellicoe Road) I don’t think Elson really pulled it off though. She doesn’t fully explore the plots she has already, but keeps adding more and more to the book at times.
Another issue that really adds to the flatness of the book: the tone. The book alternates between Willem and Sasha’s perspectives. They speak differently, but the tone feels too similar. They both have this straightforward feeling to them that leads to a flatness in the storytelling. Willem’s voice is similar to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time but doesn’t have the same emotional strength or realism to it. Sasha’s voice is almost identical to Willem’s, with more of a “street edge” to it. Both of them are flat and unemotional, which doesn’t lend to an emotional response from readers.
There were a lot of fantastic elements to this book. There is love and bravery and courage in the main characters. There’s a fantastic plot about ATA pilots (which made me think about Code Name Verity) which really was one of the more interesting plotlines and doesn’t get delved into in a way I would have liked. I think the books had so much potential, but it didn’t reach it. The emotion wasn’t there. The highs were too high and there weren’t any lows at all. The book felt toneless and emotionless. Good, but disappointing.