Walker Books Australia (2013)
Reviewed by Pearl Maya
The life of a 14 year old girl is not an easy one. There are changes you aren’t in control of, school yard politics, and all of the angst that comes with being a 14 year old girl about body image, relationships and the inevitable “who am I?” question.
Elsbeth Edgar captures all of this in her novel In the Wings. Centred around Ella, an only child who lives in Melbourne with her parents, Ella isn’t one of the cool kids, does okay in class and has a couple of really good friends but isn’t invited to the parties.
The story starts with Ella outside her comfort zone. She longs to act in the school’s production A Midsummer Night’s Dream but chooses to take a backstage role instead to avoid dealing with her chronic stage fright. Her mother has been away for six weeks. Her best friend Gina appears to be going in a different direction.
And then her mother returns with the eccentric grandfather that she has never met and everything changes.
In the Wings is something of a fairy story in that during the term Ella is “transformed from dumbstruck Year Eight student into an ethereal fairy” but although there is a Puck or two, there is no fairy godmother to magically fix things – this is a journey for Ella. She forms new and strong friendships. She watches as those around her face real trials not of their making. She learns that “just trying to hold it together” is sometimes all that can be done and that “there are some things that could not be mended”.
Ella is kind and compassionate. She is empathetic and creative. Ella works hard. Ella has great support from a special adult. That is the magic that fuels the transformation.
A great book for the tweens and early teens. Whether you are an Ella, or just a girl, there is something here to amuse, enchant and inspire.