Goodreads: The Girl Who Could Fly
When Piper McCloud is born, she disrupts the way things have always been done on the McCloud farm. In the first place, she was born to her mother too late. In the second place, it’s abnormal the way she hovers about. Her parents are insistent she hide her flying abilities so the neighbors will have nothing to gossip about, but Piper can’t stop herself from showing off during a baseball game. With her secret out—and scaring the countryside—Piper immediately takes up an offer from visiting government officials who offer her a place at their school for special children. However, Piper’s dreams of finally belonging somewhere might be premature.
The Girl Who Could Fly mixes the old and the new in a soaring adventure about a girl who simply wants to use her talents to be herself. Piper McCloud doesn’t see her ability to fly as anything other than heartpoundingly extraordinary, a skill she’d like to teach others so they can share the beauty of the skies. But her neighbors think it isn’t right, and what isn’t right what must be avoided, or maybe destroyed. Thus Piper’s journey to hone her talents as a flier also becomes a journey about how to be herself and how to fit in, a theme even grounded readers will be able to identify with.
The book opens in rural Lowland County, where the McClouds have been farming their plot of land for generations. The people here like tradition and aren’t accustomed to change; reading this section is like reading a book set in the 1800s, where little girls braided their hair in plaits, wore gingham dresses, and walked to school carrying lunch pails they would set to cool in the stream. Forester chooses just the right voice for the book based on this setting, giving Piper and her folks a bit of a country accent and steady personalities that value hard work, virtuous living, and keeping tradition going.
Piper, of course, puts a bit of a wrench in the plans. She has the country accent, which she’s mocked for when she leaves for school and discovers the rest of the world has been modernized, but she doesn’t have the character of a steady farm girl. She’s high-spirited, sometimes flighty. And her spunk makes her fun to read about, as she certainly isn’t afraid to try to make things change.
The rest of the cast is similarly varied in personality. Forester does fall into the trap of writing twins who are “just like one person” (and apparently enjoy having no individual identities, which I think it is a new low in twin characterization), but otherwise has a good mix of personalities. The villain falls a little apart at the end, as she has a sudden personal revelation that isn’t much explored before she’s dropped from the story, but she’s an exception.
The pacing mostly works out. The story starts a bit slowly and ends a bit oddly, as it looks clearly to have been trying to conclude while keeping itself open for a sequel that just never happened. However, for the most part I was really engaged in the story and didn’t once put it down because I got bored. The Girl Who Could Fly isn’t going to be my favorite middle grade book of the year or anything, but it is entertaining and I think readers who normally enjoy middle grade fantasy would like it.