Wednesday 25 March 2015

Review ~ How to Fly with Broken Wings by Jane Elson.

Title: How to Fly with Broken Wings.
Author: Jane Elson.
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books.
Genre: Children's Fiction.
Publication Date: March 5, 2015.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

'If Finn Maison shouts jump you jump or you are dead.'

Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk - and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Bradley gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend?

Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. As he flies through the air he flaps his arms, wishing he could fly and escape into the clouds. Instead he comes crashing down and breaks his ankle.

Sasha, angry with herself for not stopping Finn and his Boyz, is determined to put things right. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.

And when Magic Man Archie arrives with stories of war-flying spitfires, he will change the lives of the kids on the Beckham Estate for ever. And perhaps find a way for Willem and Sasha to fly ...

Touching on themes such as friendship and bullying, this is a charming tale about overcoming obstacles and finding friendship in unlikely places.

How to Fly With Broken Wings explores the life of Willem, a twelve year old boy with Asperger Syndrome who dreams of being able to fly. Willem takes things very literally and struggles to communicate with other people his age so when he is set the homework of making two friends his own age, we’re brought a moving portrayal of what life is really like for him. I enjoyed this story – it’s fun and cute and Willem is a quirky character who is difficult not to like. There was a lot of drama and a lot happening in this book and though I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining, it felt almost like there was too much going on. What started off a charming, well-written book seemed to lose its way towards the middle for me with too many new themes and strands of the story being introduced but not fully developed. It’s an interesting, easy-to-read book but one that I thought should either have been extended to expand on some of the themes or had some of the events cut out so that it could have had more focus and been more realistic.

What I liked the most about How to Fly with Broken Wings was Willem’s friendship with Sasha. She was caring and thoughtful and once she chose to stand on her own two feet, she really came into her own and became the perfect ally for Willem. I loved how she was gently showing him things that maybe he couldn’t appreciate without a friend his own age to share it with. There was the occasion where I thought Willem and Sasha’s voices in the book seemed a bit too similar and I thought maybe they both seemed a bit younger than the age they were portrayed as but I mostly just enjoyed seeing their friendship grow. Willem was a sweet character and I always was the person to side with the kid that was picked on… I found him endearing and loveable and his little quirks made me smile. The other young characters in this book were not so nice. There was a gang mentality to the Beckham Estate and there were some seriously horrible, vile people involved. The part I really want to mention with the gang is something towards the end which I obviously can’t mention. That bit didn’t really work with me and I thought it lost some of the accuracy and credibility built up throughout the novel. But I generally thought the violence and abuse was touched upon well and could give young readers a strong but honest impression of what goes on.

A lot of the plot revolved around Archie, who quickly becomes like a grandfather figure to Willem and Sasha. He has lots of stories to tell – especially about spitfires which appeals to their interest in flying – and he’s well respected too. I liked Archie’s character. His story was a bit of a whirlwind with stuff always happening but he was interesting and likeable. Archie kind of inspires the presentation Sasha and Willem have to do with the main bully, Finn. This book was breaking my heart seeing Willem trying to befriend Finn! Willem was so trusting and Finn was so impressionable but that’s not something Willem could really understand with his Asperger’s. I never quite knew how things would work out between Sasha, Willem and Finn and so I really enjoyed reading to find out. How to Fly with Broken Wings is a lovely little read – one which I thought could have been improved upon with some more development but still one which left an impression on me. It’s a touching story about finding friends in unlikely places.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK


  1. What an interesting different topic to cover in a book. Aspergers must be hard to portray unless you have experience of a chikd or adult with it.

    1. it's such a brave thing to write about I think when it's done in children's fiction.

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