I loved, loved, loved this book. Emelyn has just started seventh grade, and she is ready for the freedom a new school will afford her. She and her dad have found a precarious balance since the unexpected death of her mother two years previously, and Emelyn has her eyes fixed on a brand-new set of wheels and the speed they will generate. But not everyone sees Emelyn the way she sees herself, and she must find a way to show the world what she is capable of. Charming, heartfelt, funny, and honest, this middle grade book is one that will define the genre for years to come. Please see my full review below!
Twelve-and-a-half year old Emelyn has just started middle school, and so far, seventh grade is living up to her expectations. She has more choice in her classes, she gets to travel the long halls throughout the day, and her friend Devontae is looking at her a little differently than he used to. And Emelyn has big plans: she has her heart set on a brand new set of wheels and the chance to perfect the tricks inspired by her WCMX idols. But when other people begin stepping into her world, offering help when she does not ask for or need it, Emelyn finds herself struggling to prove her ability more and more each day. Though these efforts are well-intentioned, other important details need to be addressed to truly make the difference her community desires.
Readers will fly through this book with the speed Emelyn craves so much. Something is happening in each moment of the story, whether Emelyn is going to school, working on her online business, or attempting another trick on the deteriorating halfpipe outside her house. This gives the narrative an easy flow, especially as it is filled with many of the familiar emotional experiences of adolescence. Likewise, youth-centric jargon punctuates the phrasing, often incorporating idioms used in Emelyn’s South Carolina home.
From the first pages, Emelyn exudes joy and effervescence. Though she has always relied upon a wheelchair to get around, Emelyn has never felt limited by it. Instead, her chair gives her the freedom of movement that helps her put all her other worries aside as she feels the air breeze past her face. But not everyone sees her through the same lens, and there are many people who instead view Emelyn as someone who needs assistance and may never live up to their expectations. Because of this, Emelyn must maintain even more optimism to counteract the well-meaning but misguided attempts of others to somehow fit her into their opinion of what reality should be.
Fantastically written, this is a book that readers of all ages will enjoy, and Emelyn is a character who will reside within their hearts long after the story ends. Her spunk and tenacity flow freely from the pages, and even when she experiences hardships, she finds a way to see her circumstances in a more positive light. This story blends supportive friendships and familial connections with some less-than-perfect elements of both to show readers that there is joy to be found even in challenging circumstances. Air is an inspirational and wonderful story that can be shared both as a classroom read and independently; it is a defining and essential contribution to the canon of literature for middle grade readers.
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