Book Review: ‘When We Have Wings’ by Claire Corbett

when we have wings cover

Book Title: When We Have Wings

Author: Claire Corbett

Genre: Speculative Fiction

Summary: Only the rich and powerful can afford to fly – the cost of the surgery, drugs, and gene manipulation is too great for anyone else. So why does Peri, a poor girl from the regions, have wings? And why would she throw it all away? Private investigator Zeke delves into the mystery of Peri’s disappearance and unravels a dark world beneath the glamourous facade of flier culture and politics.

Favourite Scene: Every scene describing what it’s like to fly – wow!

Favourite Character: Zeke Fowler

Review: This is a stunning novel – beautifully written and gorgeous with its imagery, the novel is more than just words on a page. The implication of technological advancement and how it will influence class (and even generation to generation) is represented through the ‘haves’ (wealthy fliers) and the ‘have nots’ (everyone else). The cost of wings, however, is more than just monetary – as Zeke finds out. What makes this story compelling is the narrative, split between two voices. It begins with a third person narrative from Peri’s point of view and then alternates between this and Zeke’s first person narrative of his investigation into her disappearance. Within these perspectives we have Peri’s search for truly understanding what it means to fly, and Zeke’s struggle to make the right decision for his son, knowing that whether or not his son is successful in the future could well be defined by whether or not he has wings.

The plot is, essentially, quite simple and straightforward. What I really loved about this novel was the obvious amount of research that went into its composition. Not only do we have considerations for science but also for the very nature of flight. Being able to fly like a bird means having lighter bones, burning more calories, and learning how to read the sky. Having a population of people who can fly changes how buildings are designed and constructed, how clothes are worn, and how we interact with others. The world constructed in the novel is intricate and flawless, and the characters are complex and flawed. It’s a beautiful combination!

There are subplots within the novel that weave together to create a sense that there is much more to come – not necessarily a sequel to the novel but definitely a real-life need to seriously consider the implications of technology and its role in creating (or at least redefining) human life – if we can choose a child’s eye colour, why not choose to give them wings?

I am gushing, I know. I really loved this book – it is a unique novel that stands out in a sea of rather predictable YA fiction and I cannot recommend it enough! 5 commas!

5 commas

Book Review: ‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness

Book Title: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Author: Patrick Ness

Genre: Dystopia / Science Fiction

Summary: This is the first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy and is set in a futuristic world on another planet, called “New World”. The native Spackle are blamed for releasing a germ that killed all women and left the men with the Noise, which is a constant barrage of information as men can hear one another’s thoughts all the time. Todd is the only boy Prentisstown, and will not be a man until his thirteenth birthday. A month before Todd is to become a man he flees Prentisstown, only to discover the town does not want to let him go and he must outrun an army if he is to understand the many secrets that have been kept from him.

Favourite Scene: My favourite is actually a major spoiler … So my second favourite … Nope, that’s a pretty bad spoiler too. Hrm … OK … My favourite “thing” about this book was the representation of the Noise – the visual depiction of the Noise on the page was very effective and revealed a lot about the different male characters. I really appreciated the use of formatting to give the Noise “character”!

Favourite Character: Manchee!

Review: I opened this book and saw words like ‘thru’ and ‘stayshun’ and shuddered. Then I read the first page. And the second. And, typical of my reading habits, I closed the book in the early hours of the morning. Last week I gave a pretty brutal review of Eve … this week, I can gain some literary karma points with absolute OMGTHISISAWESOME raving about Patrick Ness’ first book in his amazing series. The narrative is nothing less than brilliant. Despite being told from Todd’s perspective and thus lending towards his point of view, the characters are believable and each have their own strong voices. The language – including the “ain’t” and the “thru” and the numerous variations on spelling – is honest in its representation of a young, uneducated boy trying to articulate his experiences. In The Knife of Never Letting Go the character of Todd becomes so real that you cannot help but trust him, cheer for him, cry for him, and feel a terrible sense of anxious anticipation as he tries to reach Haven. This sort of book is exactly why I think young adult fiction should be given a new name more appealing to “adults” – it’s not a book only for “young adults”. If you’re new to dystopian settings, read this book. If you appreciate unique characters and use of language, read this book. If you enjoy a good story, read this book. If you have air in your lungs, read this book. The only negative thing I could say about The Knife of Never Letting Go is this: if you don’t have the other two books in the Chaos Walking trilogy beside you while you read the first, you may find yourself wandering the streets at 3am searching for a 24 hour bookstore.

Book Review: ‘Eve’ by Anna Carey

Book Title: Eve

Author: Anna Carey

Genre: Dystopia / Speculative Fiction

Summary: Eve has lived most of her life in the confines of School, protected and safe from the wild beasts and the cruel men who live beyond the high walls. It has been sixteen years since a deadly virus has wiped out most of earth’s population and Eve is excited to be a part of the future of New America – until she discovers the School’s sinister intentions for her and her classmates. After escaping from School, everything Eve has been educated to believe is challenged as she seeks refuge from the soldiers who hunt her and the fate that awaits her.

Favourite Scene: When Eve’s time with Otis and Marjorie comes to an end – I can’t give too much information because I don’t want to spoil it, but the end of this time together is brutal enough to remind you that not all fiction has to sugarcoat the “reality” of survival in a post-apocalyptic environment, which could be forgotten in this otherwise “romantic” vision of a dystopian future.

Favourite Character: I adored the orphans, namely Benny and Silas, for their innocence and their complete devotion to Eve. The lack of emotional support the boys have received from their “rough” leader allows for Eve’s kindness to have a positive influence on the orphans and you can perceive their need for a “mother” figure. This leads me to a bit of a tirade against representations of women, however, as Eve is something of a feminine, “sweet as pie” female figure – helpless, constantly in need of guidance and support, and adopting the role of nurturing woman with the orphans far too quickly. While this can be explained by the upbringing she has had, there is much to be said for the domesticity of the novel’s female protagonist.

Review:  I’m having some issues with representations of women in young adult fiction. I’ve been churning through novels recently and, quite frankly, I’m sick of teenage girls having monogamous relationships with teenage boys who dote upon them and worship them as feminine creatures worthy of being firmly planted on a pedestal. These relationships also have a sense of permanence and the female and male find themselves committed to each other for the rest of their lives. I know this has been a major issue in young adult fiction for quite some time, but it’s really starting to bother me. I have to flag this now as it’s going to skew my review of the book. To be clear: I am not a fan of monogamous, long-term committed relationships in young adult fiction (maybe it’s my cynical side).

Now we have that out of the way, I’ll try to give an unbiased review of the book.

I didn’t like it. It’s yet another young adult novel that has yet another sequel (it is referred to as a “series” and as a “trilogy” so maybe we’ll only be cursed with three) and I’m sick of having to spend money on multiple slow-moving books only to arrive at a predictable end that was foreseeable from the blurb on the back of the first book.

Jaded? Yes. A tad cranky? No, a lot cranky. The cliché writing was almost depressing and I’m not sure how many descriptions of Caleb’s chest are necessary in a single chapter, but based on this book the author has decided that somewhere between 3 and 5 is acceptable.

I love young adult novels. I love post-apocalyptic and dystopian settings. I love speculative fiction. There are some excellent novels out there that nestle in these categories – Eve isn’t one of them. There is little that is thought-provoking and the pacing makes for little excitement. The plot is simple, slow-moving, and too easy to read for the characters or the plot to stay with you once you’ve turned the final page.

Yes, I’m being brutal today. Want a good dystopian young adult novel? Go for Philip Reeve or, for the romantics who don’t mind a bit of monogamy but still want something interesting to read, try Ally Condie.