Friday, 17 October 2014

TAKING FLIGHT - By Sheena Wilkinson

Reviewed by Jackie Marchant

This is a book of contrasts – about two cousins living near each other, yet in completely different worlds.  Declan is the son of a single alcoholic mother living on a rough estate, attending a rough school, someone with no ambition other than to finish school as soon as possible.  At the start of the book he is in trouble again, for lashing out at his former mate, who describes his mother as a slag because she’s having an affair with his father.  His punishment is suspension, but it’s the letter of apology that Declan finds hardest to deal with.

When his mother tries to kill herself, Declan has to go and stay with his cousin Vicky.  Vicky lives with her divorced mother Colleen and pays regular visits to her wealthy father and new wife, the main purpose of which seems to be to demand more money for riding lessons and more support with her flashy new showjumper, Flight.  Hers is a world of private school, horses, giggly friends and shopping – and absolute horror that her mother used to live on the same estate as Declan.

The story is told from these two viewpoints, Declan struggling with what life has thrown at him, while Vicky struggles not to let him near her friends.  The one thing that could bring them together is the one thing that drives them further apart – horses.  Declan has never been near a horse before, is reluctant to be dragged off to watch ‘princess Vicky’ riding Flight – and completely astonished with how much he immediately takes to them.  The more his affinity with the animals comes out, the more Vicky is determined to keep him away.  But, as Declan’s situation spirals ever downwards, it is Vicky who holds the key to his redemption – if only she can find it within herself to overcome her bitterness and jealousy.

The two viewpoints are handled deftly, although it’s Declan who has the reader’s sympathy, despite his flaws.  Coming from her privileged background, it can be harder to empathise with Vicky, although Declan can be pretty cruel to her.  Ultimately, this book is about accepting people for who they are, rather than their situation.  Winner of the CBI Book of the Year Award, this is a great, page-turning read.  


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