There’s no doubt that there’s an abundance of YA novels that revolve around a character’s grief, and their struggle to overcome it. These characters are often seen to fall into harmful ways of thinking or destructive patterns of behaviour, and this can show readers who might be impressionable and moulded by what they consume and that this is the “normal” way to deal with grief and hardship. Believing these things can not only be detrimental to the individual, but also highlight the need for authors to have a responsibility towards their readers. While I do believe that some “controversial” novels are valuable as they provide readers with alternate points of view and give a voice to the sides that may not be as heard in our society, it’s harmful to convey to readers that it’s “normal” to cope by means of self-harm of destructive behaviours. This is effectively what we are communicating to some readers by normalising these actions to the point that the lines between “healthy” and “unhealthy” are blurred.
And that’s why I loved Wing Jones so much. Wing Jones is a novel that starts with a tragedy and follows the life of a teenage girl affected greatly by it, and how she learns to deal with her pain and sadness by running. In that way, Katherine Webber does what few authors are capable of doing — portraying that grief doesn’t always lead down a road to darkness. Wing Jones doesn’t rely on a male character saving a girl from suffering to drive the story. Instead, our protagonist is seen to effectively save herself from her grief by using running as a coping mechanism, and the romantic elements of this novel simply act as a side narrative and not what “cures” her of her sadness. We need more books like Wing Jones.
Another thing that Wing Jones should be commended on is having a biracial main character. I can think of exactly one book I’ve read before with a biracial protagonist — To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before — and I certainly think that we need more of this aspect of diversity shown in YA novels. There’s nothing I hate more than books that proclaim to be “oh so diverse” and use that as their main selling point, but Wing Jones is a fantastic novel made all the more spectacular because of the natural way in which Wing’s duality of race was written about and not fixated upon to an unrealistic extent. I absolutely adored her family and the dynamics between the members, especially between Wing’s two grandmothers. If this book was just all bickering between the two grandmothers, I honestly wouldn’t mind.
One of the elements I adored about this book was the magical-realism shown by the presence of a lion and a dragon that were effectively figments of Wing’s imagination, but something that she could see and feel. It was beautiful to see how they were a part of her and how they guided her and helped her through her stage of grief. In that way, Webber’s writing style is absolutely amazing. She not only weaves these magical elements seamlessly into the narrative, but also uses metaphor in such a highly crafted way to make me laugh at times and cry at others. The poignancy of her words and the way she intertwined the mundane with the extraordinary is part of what makes Wing Jones such an unforgettable read. With incredibly realistic characters and raw, heartfelt messages about the importance of family and fighting for what you think is right, this is a novel not to be missed.
Have you picked up Wing Jones yet, or is it on your radar? Do you think we need more YA books that portray a healthy way of coping with loss or grief? Let’s talk down below!
Thanks to Walker Australia for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA.
With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had.
Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.