CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 2. . . .September 10, 2010.
Flying Feet. (Orca Sports).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
141 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Grades 9-12 / Ages 14-17.
Review by Philip Bravo.
Craig’s buddies are ready with water for me to rinse my mouth and ice packs to cool my head and sweating body. One of them enters the octagon with the first aid kit and grabs the foot with the broken toe.
“What the hell are you doing” Craig asks me.
“Fighting with honor,” I say. The words in my mouth taste odd, but for the first time in a long while I start to feel whole.
“You’re getting your ass kicked,” Craig corrects me. “There are no rules in this fight. You can’t break a rule that doesn’t exist!”
The bell dings, and we’re ready to go another round. Ripper leaps into the octagon, and I stand gently on my foot. Craig’s buddy taped my broken toe to a good toe, so I can hardly feel it now. I consider for a second what Craig said to me.
“I have rules, I have a code,” I tell him as I turn and bow to the Ripper.
The audience is laughing as though I’m acting like a clown. I understand now how far this club has fallen from the tradition of martial arts. I start to feel like a warrior whose duty it is to bring that honor back.
Stories about martial arts appeal to many teenagers because these stories involve bravery, a sense of purpose, displays of expertise, excitement and plenty of action. James McCann’s latest book, Flying Feet, is an ideal mix of these elements and more. The book is about Jinho, a Korean high school student living in Vancouver with his mother. Jinho is a good student, respectful son and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Yet, he is unhappy and frustrated with the limits placed on his life. Bullied at school, frustrated by martial arts competitions and eager for excitement, Jinho, influenced by peer pressure and the swagger of Austin, a mysterious stranger, accepts his invitation to compete in an underground mixed martial arts fight (MMA).
These underground competitions are unregulated matches and very dangerous. Doctors and referees are often not present, and competitors are encouraged to fight until one of them is rendered unconscious. Jinho’s initial experience with the underground MMA movement is somewhat positive. Although Jinho is badly injured, he wins the fight and gains the confidence to confront a bully, but it soon becomes obvious that he is well over his head. Jinho’s second match is with a merciless, dangerous and extremely violent opponent named Ripper. In the course of this final fight, Jinho realizes the importance of the lessons his Tae Kwon Do teacher, mother and friends have taught him. In a rousing conclusion, Jinho is rescued from serious injury and possible death by the police, his friends and family. Along the way, Jinho learns important life lessons that help him to become a better person.
Published by Orca Books as part of the “Orca Sports” series, the book has 21 chapters, each with approximately 4-5 pages. This is an ideal format for reluctant readers or anyone interested in a good, quick and satisfying story. The first person narrative, driven by dialogue and short staccato sentences, is a perfect vehicle for this type of story. Fortunately, James McCann doesn’t demonize the sport or its participants. Instead, he offers the reader a lucid account of its appeal while eloquently describing its dark side. This adds credibility to the story, something which its intended audience will appreciate. In addition, this classic hi-lo problem novel includes an author’s note supporting the regulation of this sport. Flying Feet, an appealing story about martial arts that offers teens a combination of action, suspense and a positive message, will be a popular addition to public and school libraries.
Philip Bravo is a librarian living in Winnipeg, MB.
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