Author: Jill Hucklesby
Release date: 3rd January 2010
Genre: Dystopia / Mystery
Target audience: 11+
UK Publisher: Egmont Books
Summary from Amazon:
Tender and deeply moving, "If I Could Fly" is an unputdownable novel with real heart. It will keep you guessing until the final page. Calypso Summer. Yeah, that really is my name. 'A girl with such a name is on a journey. She will have adventures,' my mother used to murmur in my ear. And I now I am on a journey. I'm running from something terrible - but I don't know what. It's like my brain has blocked it out. For now, I'm learning to survive: to break the System and not get caught. I've found a friend I can trust. Next stop, freedom. Somehow, somewhere..."If I Could Fly" is a story you'll never forget.
If I Could Fly is an eccentric, surreal story set in a future where England is subject to the controlling power of the state and it eats away at peoples personal freedoms.
Calypso Summer is thirteen and on the run. She cannot remember who she is running from or why but running she is. The first chapter of If I Could Fly is stream of consciousness. It is both poetic and yet alienating as the writing is unfamiliar. The whole novel is told in the first person present tense which makes Caly’s story a vibrant burst of life.
The England Caly lives in has been transformed by a dangerous virus that has swept through the countryside. The State claims that it is spread by wild animals. A great culling has begun to exterminate the wild creatures and people are being rounded up and quarantined. Caly’s home life is in some ways very similar to other teens today. She goes to school, does her homework and loves her mother. Yet there are sinister differences too. Young People are counted in and out of the estate by a guard who mans the gates.
Caly finds a release with a group of free runners called the Feathers. She idolises the leader and learns the techniques of free running from him but also the need to ask questions, to have rebellious thoughts. But this is all memory from before Caly runs. It is what happens to Caly running that is the real coming of age story.
There is beautiful writing in this novel and an intriguing back story. Caly’s mum is Thai and her dad is British. The Thai heritage that Hucklesbury weaved into the story was my favourite aspect of the novel. I loved the imagery and the gentle introduction of the Thai culture.
Unfortunately there is one aspect of the novel that left me feeling dissatisfied and that was the twist. I feel cheated by it. For me it left me with so many questions about the society, the virus, the FISTS and although that wasn’t the point of the novel, I wanted it to be. The answer that I was presented with left me disappointed. I can see that the ending relates to the novel being a surreal and almost fluid exploration of character but it wasn’t really for me.
Having said all that, there is plenty to delight the reader in If I Could Fly: the style of the writing, the friendships and the back story. An elegant, slightly dystopian, kaleidoscopically surreal coming-of-age story, If I Could Fly will appeal to readers who like their books to be out of the mainstream.
Thanks to Egmont Books for sending me the book to review.
Read for the British Books Challenge 2011