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TPG reviews: Growing Wings, by Laurel Winter

March 25, 2013

Though not without its flaws, Growing Wings is a quick and enjoyable read.

Eleven-year-old Linnet is growing wings. Auburn wings, with soft feathers. For a while, she can hide them, but they grow larger and larger, almost seeming to take on a life of their own-while taking away Linnet’s old life. Her mother, Sarah, knows what it feels like . . . almost. For when the young Sarah began to grow wings, her mother-Linnet’s grandmother-cut them off. Sarah is a “cutwing.” She swore that she would let her own daughter’s wings grow when the time came, but now that it’s actually happening, she has no idea what to do. And Linnet-lost, confused, fledgling Linnet-doesn’t either. . . .

First published in 2002, Growing Wings was clearly intended for an audience younger than me.  This was never a concern for me: the best such books, after all, can be enjoyed by all ages.  That was certainly the case here and I don’t regret reading this book in the slightest.

My main reason for buying this, put simply, was that the concept sounded utterly fascinating.  In short, this book tells the story of 11-year-old Linnet as she learns to live with the wings that have begun to develop on her back.  When the wings become too big to hide, she moves into a sanctuary populated both by winged people and those who have lost their wings, who refer to themselves as “cutwings”.  From this point onwards, the story focuses on Linnet’s changing relationship with those around her as well as her wish to fly.  Ultimately, she comes to decide whether or not to spend her whole life in hiding.

First thing’s first: I liked Linnet a lot.  She is a well-written, sympathetic protagonist who manages to influence the story without utterly dominating it.   Her development felt real and believable and her dialogue, on the whole, rang true; this, incidentally, was a quality shared by almost all of the book’s characters.  Of particular note was Andy, Linnet’s rival-turned-friend, whose impulsiveness and strong will frequently lead her to clash with the others.

Given the premise, actual flight takes up surprisingly little of the novel.  The book goes through great lengths to point out the impracticalities of placing wings on a human body, which is something I wish would be considered more often.  Linnet’s wings quickly become too large to hide under her clothes and she accidentally bangs them into objects several times before properly getting used to them being there.  Furthermore, even Linnet’s tiny body is too heavy to easily fly and Andy is the only other member of the sanctuary who even stands a chance at flight.

I found the quality of writing to be very good.  The writing style was clear and concise without being overly simplistic and could therefore be enjoyed by a wide range of audiences.

That being said, this book is not without its problems.  The plot moves slowly at points and is often without focus, only really coming together in the last third-or-so of the novel.  The ending of the book is very abrupt, as is the beginning, and I honestly felt as though I’d been tossed into the central portion of a larger storyline.  The ending also leaves a lot of things open and feels distinctly as though Laurel Winter was considering a sequel; if this is what she had planned, then it sadly has yet to materialise.

The Kindle version also contains several mistakes which, while hardly deal-breaking, are certainly an annoyance.  Linnet is referred to as “Linner” on multiple occasions, while in other places punctuation was clearly missing.  I sometimes wonder how much time gets spent on proofreading kindle editions, as this is far from the only ebook I’ve read which has suffered from such issues.

Overall, I would recommend this book.  Though it is not flawless, it is a brisk and satisfying read that I feel could be enjoyed by people of variety of ages.  If you’re looking for something to give to a teenager, you could certainly do far worse than Growing Wings.


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