Learning to Fly (Orca Soundings Series)
Orca Book Publishers, 2008.
Seventeen year old Jason, born in China, has lived in Canada for about six years, and has hated every minute. His parents are separated, and he is forced to work long hours in his mother’s deli as well as look after his three year old brother. He has no friends and is ridiculed by his classmates and teachers in a town where racism appears acceptable.
Smoking marijuana is his only escape from a life he considers grim. Kicked out of class he is befriended by “Chief”, a First Nations teen who is likewise an outsider. Chief has a small group of friends know as the “potheads” and it is this group that Jason falls in with. His marijuana use increases and life at home becomes even more miserable with his mother’s disapproval of his new friends. He dreams of returning to China. Having just purchased a large quantity of marijuana for his friends he is arrested and charged with trafficking. His friendship with Chief grows and they each save each other from suicide, Jason’s attempt over despair with his life and Chief’s after the suicide of his sister.
The reader gains a strong sense of Jason’s isolation from his peers and his anger at how his life is unfolding. His relationship with Chief portrays two very troubled teens whose friendship saves each other. As with all Orca Soundings, the text is sparse and aimed at a reluctant reader. Some may find the plot disjointed and the narrative too clipped. Many teens enjoy reading all titles in this series and for that reason this one would be a good addition.
Thematic Links: Immigrants; Drug Abuse; Teen Angst
Vol.14, number 1
E - Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!
G - Good, even great at times, generally useful!
A - Average, all right, has its applications.
P - Problematic, puzzling, poorly presented.