Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Flyaway by Helen Landalf

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: December 19th, 2011

Fifteen-year-old Stevie Calhoun is used to taking care of herself. But one night, her mom, who works as an exotic dancer in a downtown Seattle nightclub, never comes home.

That’s the night Stevie’s life turns upside down.

It’s the night that kicks off an extraordinary summer: the summer Stevie has to stay with her annoyingly perfect Aunt Mindy; the summer she learns to care for injured and abandoned birds; the summer she gets to know Alan, the meanest guy in high school.

But most of all, it’s the summer she finds out the truth about Mom.

FLYAWAY is the story of a teen girl’s struggle to hold on to what she’s always believed, even as her world spins out of control.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

For a book that has under 200 pages, it sure packs an emotional punch.  Wow.  I finished this book this past Saturday, and here it is Tuesday, and it's still on my mind.   It's one of those books that makes me thank God for the upbringing I had; it wasn't perfect by any stretch, but it could have been a whole lot worse...

The protagonist in this book, Stevie, is the type of girl who falls through the cracks.  It's just she and her mom, but she is definitely the "adult", instead of vice-versa.  She lives her life in blind devotion to her irresponsible stripper mother, and accepts that her life is the way it is without question; in her mind, if her wonderful mother could do better, she would.  Stevie misses school to wait by the phone when her mother doesn't come home for days, saves her money in case her mother needs rent money to keep them from being evicted (even though she knows her mother will probably end up stealing it), and refuses to believe that her mother is a meth addict- even after seeing it with her own eyes.  She  is in the worst kind of denial because if she were to believe her mother to be the woman that she is, she would have to question her very worth.  When Stevie's Aunt Mindy comes in to to take over when Stevie's mom disappears for days on end, yet again, Stevie is resistant.  She wants to believe that her aunt has some kind of ulterior motive; that she's the one who can't be trusted, instead of her mother.  In actuality, Aunt Mindy just wants to provide stability and a safe environment for Stevie to finish growing up in.  She gets Stevie's mom into rehab and tries to help Stevie get on a different path, a path that won't lead to the same end as her mom.  Stevie has mixed feelings, and feels like it's a betrayal to her mother to accept Aunt Mindy's love and help.  Aunt Mindy epitomizes everything Stevie's mom isn't, and that is the worst thing Stevie can imagine.  During this time of inner struggle, she meets Alan (a "bad boy" who used to go to her school) and Valerie and learns to rehab injured birds, which is oddly cathartic to her.  She also comes to a great many realizations about who her friends are and how damaging many of her behaviors are.  This book was an eye-opening and emotional ride. 

This story did have a few holes.  I would have liked to know more about Alan and Valerie.  The bird sanctuary played a big part in Stevie finally recognizing and and coming to terms with her circumstances, yet there was very little about it in the story.   I felt like both characters could have used a lot more development.  Stevie rubbed me the wrong way sometimes too.  She was really stupid about a lot of things; she would claim she knew what she should do, and then do the exact opposite.  I have little patience for self-destructive people.  Her relationship with her mom reminded me of a victim of repeated domestic abuse who keeps going back for more until her abuser finally kills her; Stevie's mom chose drugs over her and that should have been enough for her to stop living in denial...  I did like that there wasn't  neat ending.  I don't think a story like Stevie's could possibly end neatly.  It could, at some point, have a happy ending, I suppose, but I think Stevie's scars will always be too deep to have a neat one.  The story ended with a sense of not knowing what was in store for Stevie, but that's okay, it means her story isn't over.  If her story isn't over, there's hope...

I would have really liked to give this book five stars, but I just couldn't.  It had the potential.  It was interesting, engaging, and well-written; it was just too short for the kind of character development I felt was necessary for this very character-driven story.  With the exception of Stevie, the characters were very two-dimensional to me, and that is what kept this from being the five-star book it should have been.

My Rating:  ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is definitely a HS book.  There is a lot of mature content, and it is at times quite harsh.  I think it would be a lot for a younger reader to grasp.  Ages 14 and up (9th grade+).

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow this sounds really interesting! It's the first I heard o it as well. Awesome review!

    Xpresso Reads


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