The Girl Who Could Fly
by Victoria Forester
Joe and Betty McCloud come from a long line of farmers in Lowland County, USA: steady, reliable, salt-of-the-earth folk who would never think of doing anything out of the ordinary. So you can imagine how much they worry about their gravitationally-challenged daughter Piper. I don't mean she's heavy. On the contrary. At odd moments she just floats up off the ground. You can't keep a good girl down.
In spite of her parents' efforts to keep Piper's feet on the ground, the child grows increasingly convinced that flying is what she was meant to do. Betty's determination to keep all this secret from the nosy neighbors results in Piper having a very lonely childhood. But Piper doesn't learn the true meaning of loneliness until the day the neighbors finally realize how very different she is.
Before long the whole world knows about the flying girl. Soon after that, a beautiful woman named Dr. Letitia Hellion swoops in on a helicopter and offers Piper a chance to go to a special school called I.N.S.A.N.E., where she can meet other kids with special powers like her own and learn to cope with them. If she's expecting something like the Xavier Institute, she's about to be disappointed.
The staff at I.N.S.A.N.E. severely restrict the students' movements. Surrounded by armed guards, a strict nurse, and a brusque teacher, they learn very little in school--least of all about how to use their powers. Perhaps worst of all, the students themselves are a rough crowd, each one out for his or her own interests, and everyone terrorized by the diabolically intelligent Conrad Harrington III. With her strong spirit and her homespun wisdom, Piper surprisingly turns out to be a match for him. Could this mean war?
Or... could it mean something even more surprising? Just when you think you know who the villain is, the tables are turned and a new threat is revealed. The more Piper learns about the true mission of I.N.S.A.N.E., and the likely fate of all the special plants, animals, and children being studied there, the less wonderful it seems. And now the unlikeliest of allies have to work together to plan an escape so that they can simply be themselves.
It isn't something they're going to pull off easily. In fact, from the moment the kids' escape plan goes into motion, there are still many surprises, betrayals, setbacks, heartbreaks, and astounding discoveries to come. It's an adventure about weird and wonderful kids metamorphosing from rivals to friends to family while learning, in the words of e e cummings (quoted at the beginning of this book) "to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else." It's a story that preaches a perhaps too-obvious moral--one whose apparent, main application some religious families may question--yet at the same time it depicts Piper's traditionally Christian parents as basically kind and loving people.
It is a story full of flawed but endearing characters, a story in which even the most monstrous villain reveals a touching humanity. It is a story packed with laughs and mischief on the order of Hidden Talents, thrills and chills reminiscent of Evil Genius, and enough tear-jerking pathos to make it one of the best novels I have read lately. And it's only the first novel by its Los Angeles-based author. Won't it be interesting to see what she writes next!
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
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