Title: Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Young adult/teen fiction, Contemporary
Book format: Paperback
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Description: With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds.  when tragedy strikes, she discovers an extraordinary talent she never knew she had.  Wing’s running could bring her family everything it needs.  It could also keep Wing from the one thing she truly wants.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review: I’ll be honest in saying that I struggled to write this review because I had mixed feelings about this book.  ‘Wing Jones’ is a wonderful book featuring tough situations and diverse characters but something about this book just failed to ignite my interest.

The story is about Wing, a half black, half Chinese teenage girl living in America in Atlanta, Georgia.  The first chapter of the book introduces us to Wing and her brother as well as setting up a bit of fantasy which continues throughout the story.

Wing’s character was easy for me to relate to.  She’s bullied at school for being different and doesn’t feel she’s good at anything in particular.  Wing has a really strong relationship with her brother Marcus and it’s this that is soon tested when something terrible happens to him, an accident, and she and the others are left to deal with what happened to him and the consequences of the event.  I don’t really want to explain this part too much as it would spoil the story but the way the characters all deal with things afterwards and the mixed feelings everyone has towards Marcus and the event are interesting and I enjoyed this aspect of the whole novel.  The book is about more than just Marcus’s accident though and Wing realises a talent she didn’t know she had, a talent for running.

Despite the book being an excellent portrayal of how a terrible accident can overshadow peoples lives and how we all can find a love or a talent and what happens if we go after our dream, it just didn’t appeal to me like I’d hoped.  I’m not exactly a fan of contemporary fiction but I do still read a fair bit and usually enjoy YA contemporary novels but with this book I just never felt a desperate need to get back into reading it which usually happens if you get into a good book.

I like the diversity in this novel.  Wing and her brother are mixed race and I like the way the book openly tackled the difficulties Wing has with this, as well as the difficulties another character has with being gay.   However the book just never felt exciting to read.  At times I didn’t like the way Wing’s entire mind was consumed with one character.  Although the feelings of first time love are very relevant in YA, it felt a little over the top for me and it made Wing feel like she wasn’t as complex a character as I would have liked her to be.  I also didn’t enjoy the fantasy aspect of the book.  It is a minor part of the story, Wing sees a dragon and a lioness whenever she runs (this is introduced to us right at the start of the novel so I’m not spoiling it by telling you this) but you never find out if these were made up in her head or part of Chinese folklore or something else.   And I’m honestly still confused as to the setting of the book in 1995.  There wasn’t a real need for this as the story never feels dated and apart from a reference to the Atlanta Olympics (which happened in 1996) and the fact, maybe, that there were more racial tensions back then, I see no real reason why the book couldn’t be set in today’s time.

Although there are moments I really enjoyed in this book, I particularly enjoyed Wing’s grandmothers and the way both acted towards each other, overall I just wasn’t awed by this book.  There isn’t anything offensive apart from mild use of the s swear word and I think the book would be good for all teen ages and older and a good book for those with low confidence in themselves to read as the story of Wing’s running is very inspiring.  However I just didn’t enjoy it and I’m not sure I’d read it again.

Have you read this book?  What do you think of books that show characters of different ethnicities in lead roles?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂