October 11, 2016

Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me

I'm delighted to be posting today and tomorrow as part of Dundurn's blog tour for Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me. Check in tomorrow for my interview with author Philippa Dowding.

by Philippa Dowding
228 pp.
Ages 8-12
October 2016
Reviewed from advance reading copy

Time to take flight again with Gwendolyn Golden, who first learned that she was a Night Flyer in Philippa Dowding’s The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden (Dundurn, 2014).  Having taken her first flight, she has been given “The Complete  & Unabridged Version (Newly Updated!)” of “Your First Flight: A Night Flyer’s Handbook” which explains the basics about Mentors (hers is Mrs. Forest of The Float Boat candy store) and Watchers (hers is Mr. McGillies, a local hermit) and Spirit Flyers and more.  But it doesn’t prepare her fully for the dark, winged figure with glowing eyes that she hears calling her name when flying near the cornfields at Mr. McGillies's cabin.

Starting high school brings its own anxieties, particularly from bully Shelley Norman and from Martin Evells, with whom Gwendolyn had shared an awkward kiss (called “The Worst Kiss Ever”) last spring and whose mother had started a rumour that she was a drug addict (you'll definitely want to read The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden).  Circumstances at home are similarly tenous with her twin siblings, Christopher and Christine a.k.a. C2, who have been directed by their school to take part in family therapy which Mom and Gwendolyn must also attend.  But things become even more messy when she learns that Everton Miles whom she’d met at the Midsummer Party of Night Flyers a few months earlier has moved to Bass Creek with his older brother Emerson.  More handsome and grown-up than she remembers him, Everton warns Gwendolyn not to fly out to Mr. McGillies's alone anymore.

Who is he to tell her what to do when he's been seen with his arm around Shelley Norman?! But then Martin is continuing to show an interest in Gwendolyn and demonstrating how caring he can be, especially when she sees him out at Mr. McGillies’s cabin.  Wait. What?  And then Gwendolyn learns Martin and Everton have been working together out at Mr. McGillies's. OK, that's all weird but stranger yet, and darker too, is the Rogue Spirit Flyer who is trying to beguile her away from everything and everyone.  Did I mention that Everton has been working with Celestine, a Spirit Flyer, “a starshot immortal of light and air” (pg. 74), to hunt down this Rogue?
Everton Miles is a teenage Rogue-hunter with terrible taste in girls and a shimmering, underage Spirit Flyer for a friend. 
If I didn’t think so before, I do now: it’s entirely possible that Everton Miles is stranger than me. (pg. 77)
So amidst the typical and dreadful teen angst of boy-girl crushes, rivalries and friendships, and family frailties, Gwendolyn Golden is worrying about a scary Rogue that has targeted her.  Fortunately for Gwendolyn, Philippa Dowding has given her an all-star cast of supporters in best friend Jez, potential boyfriend Martin and fellow Night Flyer Everton, as well as in her hilarious siblings (their repartee is worth the price of the book!).  The secondary characters of Mom, Mr. and Mrs. Forest, Dr. Parks, Celestine and Mr. McGillies help round out the sharp edges of a life in upheaval.  And I haven't even mentioned the shocking revelations regarding Gwendolyn’s family that come to light.

Beyond the fantastical night flying, the aspiration of many a dreamer, Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me is firmly grounded in a coming-of-age story, one in which self-acceptance and forgiveness come from the ordinary.  The extraordinary is just in the way you see things, allowing the conventional to be seen from a different perspective. Whether spatially–above or below– or temporally–from before or after–perspective is everything, isn't it? 

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