Saturday, March 15, 2008

"Airman," by Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart was born in a hot air balloon as it was being shot down by enemy fire. Talk about a dramatic entrance.

Conor's best friend is the princess Isabella, and after saving her in a tower fire by turning a flag into a parachute, he is knighted by the king and invited to daily lessons by famed swordsman and scientist Victor Vigny. As he grows into a young man, Conor and Victor explore the field of aeronautics, devising plans to create a heavier-than-air flying machine. Their dreams come to an abrupt halt when Conor witnesses the assassination of Victor and the king. He is thrown into a prison and told that the rest of the kingdom will be told he was an accomplice to the murders. There he toils in a mine for two years, plotting and planning an escape, becoming a man who will do what he has to to survive.

Though Airman is young adult fiction, it didn't feel like Colfer held anything back. The action and plotline was exciting, very Count of Monte Cristo. The character of Conor is well-developed, and though he is placed in extreme situations where one would expect the hero to take lives to save his own, Colfer never allows Conor to become a killer. I think anyone, teenager or adult, would thoroughly enjoy Airman. I may have to look into getting his other books.

5 stars

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