In a heartbeat, in a wingbeat, it happens. Isla and her father are racing across the fields, following the migrating swans, when everything goes wrong. The birds collide with power lines, and her dad suffers a heart attack.I’d heard absolutely nothing about this book when I got it. I just knew it was by Lucy Christopher, and since I LOVED her book “Stolen,” I decided to pick up this one with no questions asked. And what I found was a book quite different from “Stolen.” Not different in a bad way, just different. What I remember most about “Stolen” is the intensity of both the emotion and the writing, but here, both those aspects were handled in a much quieter way. The back of the book has this blurb by Booklist calling it “Quiet but compelling. Sensitive.” And that’s pretty much how I’d describe it too.
At the hospital, upset and scared, Isla meets Harry, with his wild red hair and firefly eyes. He doesn't laugh when she tells him about her love of birds. He listens. But Harry is ill, too: He has leukemia.
As Isla tries to deal with her father's frailty and the new feelings she has for Harry, she's determined to help the only way she knows how. Outside the hospital windows, Isla watches a lone swan struggling to fly. If she could just save the lost bird, would that magically make everything good again?
The scope of this book is rather narrow—just Isla, her family, Harry, and the swans, with the predominant settings of just the grandfather’s house, the hospital, and the lake. And there aren’t any sweeping or dramatic plot lines either—it’s simply the story of Isla dealing with her father’s illness and her interactions with the swans. But as small as the world of this book is, I didn’t find myself missing the world outside its narrow bounds at all. With some books, I can’t help racing to the end to find out what happens, but with “Flyaway” it was all about taking my sweet time. I didn’t care so much about how it ended as much as I did about Isla’s struggle to get there. I mean, I was happy with the ending and all that, but the story could have finished off completely differently and I wouldn’t have minded—for me, the book was all about enjoying Isla’s journey.
Overall, a lovely gem of a book. I don’t have much to say because I feel like everything about it is so wonderfully subtle that I’m having a hard time pinning it down. So I’ll just fall back to those Booklist adjectives: quiet, compelling, sensitive.
Rating: 4 / 5