________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 8. . . .October 22, 2010.


Fly Away. (Orca Sports).

Nora Rock.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
179 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55469-313-9.

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Jan Sahibzada.

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.





We stopped between evergreens and Benedict's high wooden fence. I could feel the cold creeping up through my boots. We peered at the neighbor's house. There was one light on, toward the back. Nothing to worry about.

We couldn't be sure where the shed was on the other side of the fence.

"Boost me up," Shona said.

I made a basket with my hands and popped her up, just like in cheerleading. I was only expecting her to take a look, but she grabbed the top of the fence and swung over. How was I supposed to follow?

"Shona," I hissed. "Pull on this. Hard." I fed the loop at the end of the leash through the lattice near the top of the fence, then took the collar in my hand.

Shona pulled on her end, and I scampered up the smooth boards like a rock climber. I got a boot over at the top, straddled the fence and swung quietly to the ground. Shona nodded approval, her eyes shining with excitement.

Sixteen-year-old Marnie loves Soar, her competitive cheerleading squad. Marnie knows that people think cheerleaders are ditzy and that cheering isn't a real sport, but the girls in her squad are dedicated to practicing, and perfecting their routines to compete and win competitions. Marnie also knows that a lot of the success that Soar has experienced is due to the leadership of their team captain, Marnie's best friend, Arielle. Its Arielle's last year on the squad, and Marnie's noticed that Arielle seems distracted and vague about both cheerleading and heading off to university, but, because the squad is busy preparing for a big competition in Toronto, Marnie pushes her concerns aside. Then, on the eve of the competition, Arielle packs up her stuff in the middle of the night and takes off without a word to anyone. Everyone is worried about her, especially Marnie who feels not only betrayed that Arielle didn't confide in her about leaving, but she also feels guilty for not realizing that something was wrong with Arielle. The first part of the book is an interesting enough read. The struggles Marnie faces when she is moved from the position of tumbler to the much sought after flyer position and the friction between Marnie and her boyfriend Liam will hold the attention of readers. Unfortunately, these are secondary plot lines. Once Arielle goes missing, the book starts to stray, and the plot unravels a bit. Arielle's disappearance initially is intriguing, but the ease with which Marnie is able to figure out her location after a few nights of posting on a random message board is not very convincing, and some readers may feel put off by the simplicity of Marnie's investigation. The revelation of Arielle's location and explanation for disappearing are also hard to believe. The novel tries really had to build up suspense about Arielle's location, but, when her motivation and intentions become apparent, it seems hard to believe that all that secrecy and security was necessary.

     The biggest strength of the novel is surprisingly the relationship between Marnie and fellow cheerleader Shona. Shona's criticism of Marnie's cheerleading and leadership qualities provides tension, and their subsequent friendship is strong enough to sustain the novel. Overall, the novel will appeal to younger girl readers, especially those interested in cheerleading. Readers will identify with Marnie's struggles to fit in with the squad and her struggle to be a leader and assume the role of team captain in Arielle's absence. Marnie is a likeable character, and, while all the other characters in the novel remain fairly static, there is enough development with Marnie that readers will identify with her.

Recommended with reservations.

Jan Sahibzada is a Community Outreach Librarian for Calgary Public Library's Forest Lawn branch.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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