Flyaway is a YA/middle-grade contemporary novel by Lucy Christopher.
It’s a long held tradition that thirteen-year-old Isla and her dad go out to watch the swans fly in to winter at the lake. But this time, something goes wrong. As they’re running across the fields to get a good view, her dad falls. And when she gets to him, she can tell something is seriously wrong.
Time blurs and distorts as an ambulance is called, and Isla tries her hardest at being strong – not shedding a tear. But at the hospital it all begins to sink in – her dad is not well. And instead of watching the fear and worry reflected in her mother and brother’s faces, Isla wanders in her shock and sees a head of brilliantly red hair.
The hair is on a boy named Harry’s head. He stays in the children’s ward – one of the oldest, at thirteen. Harry, unlike the kids at school, finds the swans just as fascinating as Isla and her dad. It’s comforting and helpful to have someone to look forward to seeing when she goes to the hospital to see her dad. He seems healthy and full of life – why is he in the hospital?
During their visits, Isla and Harry become entranced by a lone swan that has somehow lost her way from her flock and has been outside the hospital in view of Harry’s window. Isla believes she recognizes her from one of the times she was out with her dad.
Unable to help out in any other way, Isla becomes determined to help this swan. It seems to be having difficulty flying, which is keeping her from her flock - a fate very dangerous for a bird.
Deep down inside, against all reason, Isla hopes that by making things okay with this lost swan, she’ll be making things okay with her dad. Is magic possible?
As a major animal lover, I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to stories with animals. It also can be hard to be a devout, addicted reader and sensitive to the love of our furry friends as so many books out there tend to use the loss of pets/animals as a coming-of-age plotline. So often it’s done so well – but rips my heart apart! So, I approached Flyaway with caution.
Yet the very thing that made me cautious also gave me an enhanced understanding and investment in these characters as I sunk happily into what was quickly a subdued but incredibly dynamic story.
Lucy Christopher portrays the medical issues of Isla’s father in such a lifelike, frank way that you feel the way his loss would threaten the balance of their family – the heartbreak, fear, and shock permeates the pages vividly. We get an amazingly three-dimensional family – one with disagreements and pain, but also love.
Flyaway stunningly contrasts the ordinary, personal, quiet of life with the disquiet of worry and sadness. I was absolutely riveted as we follow Isla in her handling of the crisis – rapt as she first gets face-to-face with the solitary swan. This is a poetic, gentle, emotionally effective novel that envelopes the reader (namely, me) in powerful, majestic, almost dream-like encounters with this mysterious, beautiful swan.
I can’t begin to emphasize how Flyaway hit all the right notes for me. This was a book that feels magical, yet possible – hopeful, yet realistic – and overwhelmingly inspiring and touching. I was truly wowed by this soaring, elegant piece of literature.
Flyaway deserves to be savored. As both an animal lover and a bibliophile, I was more than pleased!