Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
I have been so excited to read this book, having heard lots of buzz about it at various book events in the past year or so. I was excited at reading a book that appeared to make so many strides in terms of diversity of characters and representation of girls in literature, and I was not disappointed. Wing Jones was a really lovely and uplifting story, with a hopeful, motivating message that I’m sure young and older readers will love.
This book follows Wing Jones, a 15-year-old, half-Ghanaian, half-Chinese girl (already interesting!) who, in the aftermath of a family tragedy, discovers that she has an incredible ability for running. While at first, she uses running as an outlet for stress and emotions, her speed brings her a lot of attention, and even the opportunity to help her family out financially. How far (and fast) can Wing Jones go?
I love stories about girls getting out there and grabbing their dreams with both hands, so this was right up my street, but but book was also beautiful in that we get to see Wing discover her new talent, discover a love for it, and pursue it with a burning determination that makes you love and admire her strength. I really enjoyed seeing her struggle with balancing her love of running with her family’s desperate need, and the pressure she had put on herself to help them out, and related to this conflict when something that you love starts to feel like a job (and think probably a lot of people can relate). The way that Katherine Webber writes makes Wing’s thoughts so clear and easy to understand that you can’t help but root for and feel for her.
I especially loved the way that Webber presented the Jones family, and especially the magical realism elements in the story which gave the book an extra dimension but also made the family dynamic more complex. Wing is urged on by an imaginary dragon and tier when she runs, which act as symbols for her two grandmothers. I loved this, as it made it clear that Wing doesn’t only see her family as a burden and pressure, but that she sees them as her reason for running, and her main source of support. Also, the dialogue between the characters, especially the two grandmothers, was so much fun to read and I found myself caring just as much for them as for Wing. The relationship between Wing and her brother is the main relationship in the book though, and the one that is most tense. It was fascinating to watch Wing’s journey from admiring her brother immensely, to re-evaluating not only their relationship but who she is independent of him, and to watch that relationship change and develop.
There was also a romantic storyline to this novel, and while it was written very sweetly, it just wasn’t that important to me as a reader. I did enjoy reading some of the scenes, but most of the time I just wanted to get back to Wing and her family. I also didn’t really appreciate the ‘dilemma’ caused by the fact that Wing’s focus on her running was ‘competing’ in a sense with her relationship. While I thought the development of the relationship at the start was a nice addition to the story, I couldn’t imagine why Wing would sacrifice her potential career for a guy, or let it worry her so much. I wanted Wing to shake it off and focus on her – but perhaps I am just too much of a cynic! Thankfully, this wasn’t an overpowering storyline, and it didn’t detract from the book as a whole, or from Wing at all, even though it wasn’t my personal preference in terms of romantic relationships.
I definitely would recommend this to anyone, young or old(er), but I am particularly excited to see what younger readers’ reactions to this book are. I loved that it presents a young determined girl developing her talents and chasing her goals with all of her might, and I really hope and believe that this book will motivate other young people, especially girls, not only in sport but in all areas.