TITLE: How To Fly With Broken Wings
AUTHOR: Jane Elson
PUBLISHER: Hodder Children's Books
GENRE: Contemporary, Middle Grade, Fiction
RATING: 2/5 Stars
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...
What I Liked:
- The message that this book conveyed was actually quite a nice one. It's not often you see books that are solely based on friendship, and in this simplicity it did connect with me ever so slightly. For example, Finn's letter at the end was actually very touching. I could see what this book was trying to achieve, and I think that it would suit a younger reader who is at the age where learning not to judge other people is important.
What I Disliked:
- My problems with this book stemmed mostly from the fact that Elson's writing style was very basic, a little boring, and rather jumbled in it's nature. It felt unedited in the sense that a lot of rookie mistakes were made and could so easily have been sorted. Elson was also a fan of making sure the reader understood that her character's were shouting by using capital letters, even when she then went on to describe them as only mouthing the sentence. This did not sit well with me and if anything, did characters like Sasha no justice as she often came across as a loud-mouthed, petulant child who screamed at people a lot.
- The story-line too frustrated me. The beginning felt far too rushed, as if Elson wanted to skip the build-up of two characters forming a friendship, and just basically make them friends from the start. How am I supposed to believe in Sasha's promise to become a 'better person' when I have never witnessed a single act of pure cruelty from her? Elson tried to fit far too much into this book (mental illness, bullying, gang warfare, violence, death, domestic violence, etc.) and in doing so, hardly touched upon any of these themes.
- The characters felt a little one-dimensional: there was hardly any development. I've already mentioned my problems with Sasha, and I frequently got annoyed at her changeable attitude. Willem, who has Asperger's Syndrome ought to have been an interesting, delightful character. Instead I found him a little bland. Elson did a better job with Finn at least, and he was one of the more likeable characters in the book despite being a bully. Archie, Gracie, Auntie Lou, Fox, and the rest of the adults just had little to no personality at all and I really wanted to spend a bit more time getting to know them all.
I really did want to like this book, but I simply couldn't. Too many capital letters, plot points and too little structure and dimension made for a very poor reading experience. A younger audience may appreciate this more, as there is a very clear and sweet message behind the story that I'm glad that Elson promotes. I just wish that it had been done wit better writing, plot pacing and character development.