Overall Impression: A heartfelt story about family, tragedy, and one girl’s journey towards believing in herself.
Well, what a lovely surprise this book was, in every sense of the word. I came back from holiday last week to discover a book-shaped package. I racked my brains, unable to remember purchasing anything. The last thing I expected was an advanced reader copy from my favourite publisher for a book that wasn’t on my radar (It also came with free shoelaces, woohoo!).
I would like to thank the lovely people at Walker Books for giving me this free ARC in exchange for an honest review. I think you know my book tastes better than I do. 😉 I don’t know if I would have spotted this novel on my own, but oh, I enjoyed it so much and the protagonist was such a special little gem.
With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. When tragedy strikes, she discovers an extraordinary talent she never knew she had.
Wing’s running could bring her family everything it needs.
It could also keep Wing from the one thing she truly wants.
Wing Jones has always been the quiet one in the family, she enjoys looking on from the outskirts, happy to watch her brother claim the spotlight with his sporting ability. Her brother is perfect – he has a beautiful girlfriend, an endless amount of friends, an amazing talent, not to mention he’s got the best sides of their Chinese and African genes making him look strong and exotic, where Wing looks mismatched and awkward. Wing couldn’t have her brother on more of a pedestal – that is until he commits an atrocity that is potentially unforgivable. One night, plus too much alcohol and the keys to a motor vehicle leave Wing’s family devastated. Marcus Jones is left in a coma, and a young woman and mother have been murdered; Wing, and her family, are left to deal with the consequences.
This book was so lovely it warmed my little heart. While it centres around a serious topic – drink driving, it’s quite uplifting, as the story shows how a family can pull together during hard times. What intrigued me most about this book was that it followed the family that were on the wrong side of the incident, who were also victims in their own way when you think about it, victims of theirs son’s one bad decision and the towns judgment and dirty looks. It was heartbreaking to see how Wing and her family were treated for a mistake that wasn’t even theirs. They didn’t drive the vehicle but they are guilty by association, and they are definitely not allowed to show grief for their own son/brother/friend who may never wake up when he has caused so much grief for another family. As this book was set in America, it was also interesting to see the financial ramifications of Marcus’s mistake, as the medical bills from the accident leave the family devastated.
Wing, who at the start of the book lacks confidence and has a lot of confusion about her own self-identity, is forced to do a lot of soul searching without her brother to hide behind. She has often relied on him to sail through situations and without that she is lost, not to mention wrecked with grief. Her agitation, frustration and pent up energy eventually finds an outlet in running. Wing runs to get away from reality, she runs to release her emotions, but mostly, she runs for her brother, sure that somehow her footfalls will keep his heart beating.
Another great element of this book was that Wing lived with her two grandparents, one with a Chinese background and the other with Ghana heritage. It was great to see two different cultures combining and to have a multigenerational household portrayed so well. Wing’s grandparents play a huge part in her life, and throughout the book during difficult times Wing visualizes a dragon and a lioness who help guide her when she is struggling. I debated what exactly Webber wanted this to represent as it was a slightly odd aspect of the story, but I feel like ultimately, it showed the strength, support and sense of duty Wing’s grandparents and two different cultural backgrounds provided her.
Webber’s writing in Wing Jones is a huge part of the success of this story. She has a strong voice for a debut author and her words ebb and flow perfectly in ways that are clever and moving. Webber definitely has a love of similes and metaphors as well – possibly too much as these were dotted throughout the whole book! However, Webber’s real triumph in this novel is the character Wing Jones, who is so shy and unsure of herself, so confused and grief-stricken and yet blossoms when she discovers running. Webber’s descriptions were so magnificent and vivid that they made me want to run, and made me feel invincible sitting in my own bedroom! Wing was such a grounded family oriented character determined to fight and look after her family no matter what, but I also loved watching her discover her own passion which allowed her to become her own person.
All this considered, there were a couple of downsides to this book. I feel like the side characters needed to be fleshed out more because I didn’t really connect with any of them – I can’t even remember most of their names! Secondly, I wish we could have heard the opinions of a few more people regarding Marcus, while the reader hears a lot from Wing, Marcus’s girlfriend and his best friend, I would have been interested to hear more from the grandparents and Marcus’s mother, who remain neutral on the subject for most of the novel. Finally, I didn’t really connect with the romance that developed throughout the story between Wing and Aaron. It felt half-hearted at best and unneeded, and there was nothing original or memorable about it. It felt like it had simply been plonked in because all authors seem to think YA books need a romance, but the rest of the story was SO much more interesting! This has been a real gripe with me lately with YA in general, but maybe it’s just a sign that I’m growing older?
Overall, Wing Jones was a refreshing, heartfelt story about finding inner strength and the importance of family bonds. I really can’t believe that Wing Jones is Webber’s first novel because she writes with such flair and confidence she’s practically a pro. I can’t wait to see where her career takes her next! I would recommend Wing Jones to YA readers 10+ who enjoy feel-good stories about family dynamics. 🙂 Wing Jones is out now so grab yourself a copy!
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes