________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008



Wendy A. Lewis.
Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books, 2008.
253 pp., pbk., $11.95.
ISBN 978-1-55470-013-4.

Grades 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Caitlin J. Berry.

*** /4



A Cessna, painted with swirls of wild colour, flies overhead and disappears over the treetops. Chills ripple down my back. My arm hairs stand at attention.

“That looks exactly like the airplane on your ceiling,” Car says.

“Kind of exactly like it.” It comes out in a whisper. I can barely breathe. “Let’s chase it, Car!”


“Go! Follow it! Please! It was low – it might be landing at the Farmport.”

She sighs and shakes her head. “You and your airplanes. Okay, my darlin’ lunatic, hang on.” And off we squeal down the driveway.

I can’t believe it, seeing that plane. It was like something from a dream. The model on my ceiling that looks so much like it is the first one I made, painted to look like an airplane I saw when I was little. I made forty-seven models after that first one. From age nine to thirteen, that’s how I got through the days. What if that Cessna really is the same plane that flew over me when I was little? That airplane changed my life. It taught me to fly.

Airin Marks’s life changes drastically when her best friend, Carlotta, flies off to London for the summer and Airin is left to fend for herself. Rather than working for her stepdad at his car dealership, Airin, too, decides to do something daring: she takes a summer job working as an administrator for a sky-diving business -- after meeting Ry Truman, that is.

      Ry Truman is a young skydiver extraordinaire (and also an extraordinarily kind person) who owns the business. And upon meeting Airin, he, himself, can’t help but begin falling for her – despite his recent breakup with a long-term, volatile girlfriend. Although Airin is not as sure how she feels about Ry – she does know how she feels about something else – she falls head over heels in love with skydiving.

      Yet, while enjoying her life for – what feels like -- very first time, Airin is also triggered into dealing with past issues that have forever haunted her. Her father, who committed suicide early in her life (who also abused her), begins re-appearing in her disturbing dreams, and she keeps catching glimpses of him everywhere she goes. And though Airin is flattered to have the author named Diego Montgomery (who is, supposedly, hanging around the skydiving office in order to do research for his new novel) pay such attention to her and her writing (for she is a poet herself), just what kind of attention he intends to give her becomes extremely suspect. We all know (though Airin seems to forget, herself) that she's a very beautiful girl.

     When Airin finds out that her dad used to be an avid skydiver and Airin's mom finds out that Airin has gone skydiving (despite the fact she was strictly forbidden to do so), her world is blown apart. It doesn't help matters when her overprotective stepdad finds Airin alone in Ry's trailer with him at night – though they weren't doing anything, in truth. The stakes are cranked even higher when we find out that Diego Montgomery has darker things up his sleeve in store for the sky diving office – for Ry Truman, in particular. Lucky for most everyone involved that Airin figures out what's going on before it's too late.

     Freefall is a highly readable novel; Airin's voice is breathless, fast paced, upbeat, as is Ry's (he is the second voice in this multi-voiced narrative – though, in truth, the novel belongs to Airin). However, although Freefall is a page-turner and chock full of well-integrated research about skydiving (indeed, there's no question that the author has fully immersed herself in this world), Freefall also, at times, leaves one proprioceptively confused. The beginning, for example, is a mish-mash of dream mixed with reality, and it's hard to tease the two apart. Consequently, for the first chapter, one is left wondering whether Airin truly is grounded in reality, or whether she might even have a mental illness (she doesn't). And though Lewis impressively intertwines Airin's obsession with flying, her childhood issues, and the current plot, she leans dangerously towards the telling side of things and leaves little for the reader to figure out for herself.

     However, despite the fact that Freefall begins fast and furiously and is momentarily confusing (much like leaping out of a plane, perhaps), the novel does catch its breath and find its pacing as it goes on. Not to mention, Wendy Lewis deals with the very difficult topics of molestation, suicide, and the worst of human behaviors, impressively. She very realistically portrays Airin as a victim of these horrible circumstances, vulnerable, as well as desperately and blindly seeking escape from her pain. Moreover, Lewis's characters are all multifaceted and positively bursting with life. All told, Freefall has an unabashed quality to it, that leaves it fresh and fun to read (which is, admittedly, odd to say about a novel with such dark subject matter). One closes the last page of the book, feeling rather breathless, revitalized, and strangely windswept.


Caitlin Berry is a graduate of Vermont College's Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She is also a guest reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine.

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

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