Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Everton Miles Is Stranger Than Me

Everton Miles Is Stranger Than Me
by Philippa Dowding
Recommended Ages: 13+

Recently, Gwendolyn Golden found out she is a Night Flyer - which is to say, a person who can fly unaided. The "night" part is just a strong suggestion, since people are bound to notice you flying around in broad daylight. Gwendolyn also knows her late father was a Night Flyer, but only now does she learn how he died and what it had to do with his talent for flying. Meantime, she has been assigned a Mentor and a Watcher, and she learns the handsome new boy in town is a Night Flyer too, and she is being targeted by a demonic being known as a Rogue Spirit Flyer, and zoom! Her high school freshman year is off to a rocky start.

So many rocks pop up in her path, if she couldn't fly, Gwendolyn would be doing a faceplant a minute. Not only does she have to share a gym class with her personal bully, but they seem to fancy the same boy. Her science lab partner is the boy who gave her the Worst Kiss Ever last summer, and who used to be her best friend. Something is stopping her visiting her Watcher, the old man who lives in a shack outside down surrounded by mounds of used soda bottles, even though Mr. McGillies has fallen ill since he recently saved her life. She doesn't know how to explain what's going on to her best friend Jaz, which puts a strain on their relationship. And now both Gwendolyn and her adorable younger twin siblings, collectively nicknamed C2, have been in fights at school and must see a child psychologist. It's a real mess, and Gwendolyn struggles with a lot of anger and fear - especially about the fallen angel type who keeps trying to abduct her. The good angels, I mean Spirit Flyers, don't seem to be good for much when it comes to stopping this guy. The only thing scarier than being taken by Mr. Black Feathers is seeing him hurt the people she cares about. It's no wonder Gwendolyn's choice at the end of her first year as a Night Flyer - the choice whether to continue to fly, or to become forever earthbound - isn't the slam dunk you would expect.

There is some exciting action, good-and-evil conflict, and awe-inspiring fantasy scenery in this book. But mostly it's about coping with everykid's freshman-year issues - problems with school, family, friends, and all the changes happening inside and outside. The young teen-romance angle, Gwendolyn's struggle to accept her father's death, the mental block preventing her from visiting her Watcher, etc., etc., etc., could all have been part of the interminable, internal psychodrama of the first 300 pages of a "Twilight" novel, with an action-packed climax more or less making it up to us. But unlike that other series, this story has a dynamic heroine whose attitude matures and improves, and who justifies her designation as the heroine by achieving heroics when it really matters, rather than becoming catatonic until her angel in shining feathers descends (or whatever). It has a fantasy concept with a smart spiritual dimension, and an endearing cast of supporting characters who serve as much more than objects of ill-focused lust. So, while Gwendolyn does linger perhaps too long among the same doubts and anxieties, one reaches the end of the journey with her (or at least, this leg of it) with a sense that it was a worthwhile trip.

This book is the sequel to The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden, and Part 2 of a series called "Night Flyer's Handbook." It is scheduled to become available in the U.S. Nov. 8, 2016. Philippa Dowding is also the author of the "Lost Gargoyle" trilogy, starting with Gargoyle in My Yard, and the "Weird Stories Gone Wrong" series, whose third book Carter and the Curious Maze appeared in paperback Aug. 30, 2016. This book review is based on a Kindle pre-publication proof made available through Netgalley dot com.

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