Title: Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: January 5th 2017
With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.
At the heart of Wing Jones is a story about family and the love that binds them together, especially during a time of heartbreak and loss. But hidden between those beautifully sprayed pages also lies an inspiring tale of self-discovery.
The innocent tone of the first person narrative made me think of Wing as my little sister, with her imaginary dragon and her lioness. I wondered whether there was a reason behind the choice of these creatures, but it wasn’t really explained in the novel. At times I found it overly descriptive and there were a few long-winded sentences that were difficult to follow, but overall I really enjoyed the use of metaphors and Wing’s voice was as unique as her character.
Wing is biracial – Ghanaian and Chinese – and she struggles to find her place in both the outside world and within her own. The novel’s engagement with certain aspects, such as her family’s financial instability and her experience with racism, with respect to the time and place of its setting is in itself commendable. I’ve also never read anything where the mixed heritage of a character is touched upon beyond an initial description of their appearance, but the (often conflicting) relationship between Granny Dee and LaoLao really reflected Wing’s struggle in defining her identity.
Despite her older brother Marcus being the man of the house and moment, this novel is solely driven and empowered by the women. I adored the relationship Wing shared with each of her grandmothers. Maybe it’s because I’ve never actually had that relationship myself that I found it so heart-warming, but it really was the highlight for me.
When Wing’s small world is shattered because of a reckless decision on Marcus’ part, every struggle escalates and she starts running. With her dragon and her lioness by her side, Wing runs as a means of escape; she runs as a means of being fast enough to keep up, and eventually she runs in order to win. The progression of the plot itself didn’t really match the pace of her feet. It was just a little too slow for my liking.
Overall, Wing Jones is an important book. Though it seems to be targeted at a much younger audience, I really enjoyed it and I’m sure many young readers will identify with and feel inspired by Wing in ways I didn’t.
It isn’t a romance, but it is a story about love. Love existing in its many forms. It is a story about family; the ones you can choose and the ones you can’t. And it is a story about strength. The ability to keep going even when you find yourself facing the toughest hurdles.
It isn’t a story about running, but it is a story about finding your feet and learning to let go. It is about growing up and saying goodbye to your dragon and to your lioness, and thanking them for teaching you to fly.