Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"The Girl Who Could Fly" by Victoria Forester

I didn't realize this was a children's book until I picked it up and started reading it. Not that this is a problem, because one of my favorite genres is children's fiction (mainly because you don't often find horribly realistic cruelty in the stories, and they generally tend to be polite). But it took a little bit of adjusting to get used to the change in perspective. 

In a good book I often feel like I become the main character, whether the book is narrated in first person or third, but I never did find that I got into Piper's head. At least this didn't keep me from enjoying the story. It was, as the friend who loaned me this book called it, a "cute" book, and I can't think of a much better description. 

I was promised that this story was a cross between Little House on the Prairie and X-Men (this is actually in a blurb by another author on the front cover of the book), which is a decent description, but I would have thrown The Mysterious Benedict Society into the mix, maybe even in place of Little House. Yes, Piper is some sort of hick hillbilly from the country, but because of the Little House reference and the description of backwater Lowland County where Piper was raised, I was expecting the story to be set in the late 1800s, and it wasn't. Oddly enough, there was nothing (that I noticed, anyway) in the first fifty pages to dispel my misconception. It wasn't until the government showed up in black SUVs that I realized the story had a more contemporary setting.

I had a hard time getting a grip on Conrad's character. He started off as a big, mean bully. It seemed to me that his personality did a 180 when it was revealed that he knew about the sinister goings-on of Level Four, and that he had been planning an escape for years. But no, all of the meanness was still there. His intelligence, meanness and reluctant willingness to change his mind gave his character a welcome complexity. An interesting side note: Conrad reminded me distinctly of Artemis Fowl, I think mainly because of his impressive brainpower and rich family.

I was a little bit annoyed that all the kids in Lowland County had hick double names (Junie Jane, Billy Bob, Rory Ray)--every single one of them. Except for Piper, that is. And it was quite obvious foreshadowing of Letita's evil nature when her last name was Hellion. Would a 9- to 12-year-old really not understand the meaning of the word hellion?

I smell a sequel. The situation with J. was left completely unresolved. And what about Bella? She wasn't even mentioned at all in the denouement. It was as if the kids gave up on her without even trying, or maybe even completely forgot about her.

One huge thing which bothered me: the story was done a grave disservice when Conrad's theory of time travel was left out of their escape and revolt plans. Maybe they're saving that for the sequel too. One small thing that bothered me: the science projects that the "mutant" students were working on. If Dr. Hellion was trying to get the kids to relinquish their special powers, why would they be encouraged to work on science projects that used those skills? I understand that these projects used their powers on a much smaller scale than what they were capable of, but why allow them to use their powers at all? 

All in all, this was a fun little book and a fast read, but I don't see it becoming a classic. 

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