Sunday, March 09, 2008

"Falling Boy," by Alison McGhee

"Falling Boy" called to me from the bookstore shelf. Its provacative cover hinted at a graphic novel, but its content spoke of tragedy and perseverance. It was enough to make me take it to the cash register.

Joseph, 16, is wheelchair bound from an accident that he won't speak about. He is taken to Minneapolis, Minn., to live with and to work in the same bakery as his father. There we meet co-worker Zap, who is 17, and frequent visitor Enzo, who is 9. Zap and Enzo, sworn enemies for reasons unknown throughout most of the book, have one thing in common: they believe Joseph is a superhero. Zap tells stories to one and all about Joseph's ability to fly, proclaiming Joseph was injured after falling off a mountain. Enzo daily grills Joseph on his super powers, demanding to know why he refuses to stand and walk.

But the great power of this book comes from Joseph. The reader cannot help but be swept up in his story as he struggles to find himself, to cope with this life and handicap, to forgive and accept his humanness.

McGhee's writing tantalizes by bringing magical elements into an otherwise tragic story, leaving readers with a sense of hope that Joseph will make it through the real world.

4 stars

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