Review Blog

Apr 14 2009

Before wings by Beth Goobie

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Faber 2008.
(Age 14+) 15 year old Adrien is obsessed with death. She has barely recovered from a brain aneurysm two years before, and knows that another one could happen at any time. When she arrives at her Aunt Erin's camp, she sees the spirits of five young women who died tragically long ago. What message are they trying to give her? She also meets Paul who also is thinking about death and a close bond forms between the two.
Gradually Adrien becomes used to the routine of the camp and begins to notice things rather than spending all her time thinking of her possible death. She is prepared to stand up to the camp bully, a counsellor who wants to be the leader of the camp staff and expects her to join in with rituals and drinking after hours. She is also aware of the tension that surrounds her aunt, and begins to understand the significance of the spirits who haunt her.
Adrien starts out as a thoroughly depressed character, who refuses to communicate with her parents, doesn't want to make friends and is always looking inwards. However she is an intelligent, independent young woman and gradually opens herself up to the idea that life may be worth living after all and that she does need to grow up.
The romance between Adrien and Paul is strong and tension grows with the mystery surrounding Paul's belief that he will die on his birthday.
This is a story that grows on reflection. The themes of accepting life rather than death, of standing up for what is right and good and the redeeming power of love are all wrapped up in beautiful writing and magic realism.
Pat Pledger

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