Laurel Winter,
Growing Wings
(Houghton Mifflin, 2000)

Laurel Winter's ethereal first novel is a finalist for the 2001 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children's Literature. By the time Linnet is 11, she is accustomed to her mother's rules and rituals, even if she doesn't understand them. She can't cut her hair. They live apart from everyone else. And every night, when her mother thinks Linnet is asleep, she touches Linnet's shoulder blades. One night, Linnet's shoulder blades itch and ache and develop strange bumps, and Linnet learns the truth.

She's growing wings.

Then she learns an even more terrifying truth: her mother also had wings until Linnet's grandmother removed them. Linnet cooperates with all efforts to hide her rapidly growing wings until they become impossible to conceal. Through a series of circumstances, Linnet ends up seeking help from the very grandmother who cut off her mother's wings. This time, the woman brings the winged girl to a hidden refuge for others with wings. It is run by Ellen, another "cutwing." There she meets Andy, an angry girl with a full set of wings who is determined to learn how to fly with them. The girls strike up an uneasy relationship until a threat from the outside world puts their whole community at risk.

Winter takes the old theme of the young outsider looking for a place to belong and gives it a fresh interpretation. It is not enough for Linnet and Andy to find a community of people who are just like them but they have consider what relationship they will have with the world at large. Winter's prose is luminous but grounded in everyday details; fantasy and reality balance each other.

Some of the characterizations are a bit stiff, but Linnet is an interesting character, especially as a foil to Andy's anger. Her character changes from a doormat to meeting Andy on her own terms.

Growing Wings is a remarkable endeavor.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 10 August 2001

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