I recently finished my ninth SpineCrackers book club book of the year, The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester. The cover of the book really does make it intriguing, a girl flying through a stormy sky with a crazy looking lady hanging onto her feet.
Piper McCloud is not your average girl - she has an extraordinary ability, one that the folks in Lowland County just can't overlook. She can fly. Besides that, she is a down-to-earth girl who sees things for what they are, and always does what's right. Her parents, firm believers in the Good Book and the Lord, just don't understand why Piper can't be normal, like everyone else. They do everything in their power to ground her, figuratively and literally!
After an unfortunate experience at a church picnic, Piper is picked up by Dr. Letitia Hellion (the last name should be considered foreshadowing). Dr. Hellion takes Piper to the institute, where the main goal is to make her normal - get rid of her abnormality. Piper quickly realizes that the other children who are there are like robots, and there are unseemly things taking place at every level.
Conrad, who has made it his main job to be Piper's archnemisis, is an interesting character. He is a genius, and uses his smarts to exert control over all of the children at the institute. While Piper befriends some of the other kids, she still is unsettled by what is taking place there. Finally, Conrad reveals his true self to Piper, and she sees that he is putting on an act as a diversion to his true goal, an escape. Because of Piper's flying ability, he thinks now is the perfect time. But Piper's big heart won't let her leave without the other children. She and Conrad come up with an alternative escape plan, which fails miserably.
At the end, Piper and Conrad decide that since escape isn't plausible, they will take over the institute - and they do just that. It is only as they are trying to leave that they discover Dr. Hellion's true ability - and the reasons for her cruelty.
The book has a happy ending, with the kids all being successful and keeping in touch, and Piper being a central part of it all. A VERY cute and quick high-interest read, and one that my book club students really love.
One of my favorite passages from the book (p. 275):
"There is a place deep, deep inside every person that is hidden and hard to find. If things get bad enough and life gets too hard, though, some people will go to that place and never come back from it. Certainly, all outward appearances will suggest otherwise. They will look as they always did. They may even act somewhat like their old selves, but the truth is, the real truth is that they are hiding in this place deep inside where no one can touch or hurt them anymore. After Sebastian was gone and the pain of the M.O.L.D. got to be too much, Piper discovered her secret place, locked herself inside, and hid the key."