Author: Katherine Webber
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: January 5th 2017
Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.
Review: Since I started blogging, I keep an eye on The Bookseller book deal announcements to see what’s coming in YA. As soon I heard about Wing Jones I was intrigued and as 2016 developed and more people talked about it, that interest just piqued. Wing Jones is a beautifully written contemporary YA novel that I adored. It tells the story of Wing Jones, who’s always felt more in her football playing brother’s shadows. Then everything changes. Her brother is in an accident and in a coma. The accident killed two people and her beloved brother was drink driving. While dealing with the tragedy, Wing discovers an affinity for running she never knew.
I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this book. Sometimes when a book is particularly hyped, or one you’ve anticipated keenly it never seems to meet your expectations. I was a little worried this would be the case for Wing Jones. I shouldn’t have been. Wing is a brilliant character and her story comes off the page.
One of the things I loved the most about this book was the importance of family. So often in YA, family fades into the background. From an academic and plot sense, I understand why. If the main character can go to their parents and they can fix the problem for them, how does the plot develop? As Wing Jones looks at family after tragedy, this is not the case and Wing’s family members are of paramount importance. Her grannies Dee and LaoLao seem to come off the pages with their bickering and different approaches but clear love of their family.
Webber explores a number of themes in Wing Jones. What it means to be biracial and the reality racism are weaved throughout the novel; from Monica’s family’s disapproval and condemnation of their daughter’s relationship with Marcus to Wing shaping her identity. I also thought the way in which it touched on Marcus’ fall from grace was interesting and felt true. What he does is wrong and the consequences and horror are not played down. However, he is still Wing’s brother, he is not an evil caricature and neither are his actions condoned. There is no going back and all of the characters in Wing Jones are changed by the actions that night.
Wing Jones is a poignant novel about finding your own identity and harnessing a talent you didn’t even know existed. There is a lovely romance subplot but it doesn’t overpower the novel or become the sole focus. Wing is. And so she should be. Wing Jones already stands out as one of the must reads of 2017 and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Do not be surprised if it makes you want to dig out your trainers and go for a run yourself. I did find my next lot of treadmill intervals at the gym after Wing Jones a little more inspired!