Book Review: We Never Asked for Wings

We Never Asked for Wings

by Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

We Never Asked for Wings Longtime readers may remember my review of Diffenbaugh’s other novel, which netted a rare 4.5/5 star review. So it should come as no surprise that I jumped on the chance to read an advanced copy of her new book, out next month.

We Never Asked for Wings is similar to The Language of Flowers in that it deals with a troubled soul finally learning to cope. And it again has beautiful language and great storytelling. But that’s where the similarities end. Wings tells the story of Letty Espinosa, a young single mother struggling to make ends meet. Until now, she’s relied on her mother to raise her two kids (Alex and Luna). But with her parents’ decision to move back to Mexico, Letty finds herself suddenly in charge, in a way she’s never had to be before. A good portion of the book focuses on her struggles to learn how to be a responsible adult, then how to be a good parent, all while working, tentatively stepping back into the dating pool, and trying to realize the potential cut short when she got pregnant as a teenager. It’s understandably a lot to handle, and there are some missteps. I’ll admit I didn’t really like Letty as a character at first, because she was just so clueless about really simply parenting things. But she grew on me.

The other parts of the book focus on her teenage son, Alex, as he navigates high school, his first real crush, learning about his father, and helping take care of his little sister. He’s skeptical of his mother’s ability to actually be a parent, with good reason at first. But then she comes up with a plan to get them out of their bad neighborhood, and her kids into a better school. It’s a risky plan, but if it works it would life-changing for them all.

The balance of perspectives between Letty and Alex is nice, and gives an unvarnished look at what it’s like to be smart but poor in America. The picture Diffenbaugh paints of this drab stretch of land and bad neighborhood where they live is very vivid, and a bit depressing. There are some pretty great supporting characters- particularly a small family of undocumented immigrants who become very important to the Espinosas. It’s an emotionally charged book, but not so rough that it’ll make you cry.

This book officially comes out on August 18th. If you like strong contemporary fiction that doesn’t shy away from social issues, give this a try.

I give it 4/5 stars.

I received a free advanced reading copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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We Never Asked for Wings

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Book Review: Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey (The Austen Project) by Val McDermid. This is the latest in the line of Austen adaptations I was eager to try out. This version of Northanger Abbey takes place in the modern day, complete with texting, British slang and Facebook stalking. It’s the story of Cat Morland, a teenage girl with a penchant for paranormal novels and Gothic imaginings. She visits Edinburgh for the first time with some family friends for the Fringe Festival, and quickly falls in with a group of young people who, of course, are not all as they seem. Cue potential romance, social gaffes, […]

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Book Review: Dreams & Shadows

Dreams & Shadows

Dreams & Shadows by C. Robert Cargill This is the story of Ewan, a boy stolen by the fairies as an infant, and Colby, a boy who meets a genie and makes a monumental wish. Their two stories, otherwordly in their own ways, intersect and change the course of both boys’ lives, and the delicate balance between our world and the realm of magic. This book is strange and moody and surprising. And it recognizes that all actions, even or especially magical ones, have consequences. The characters are pretty much all antiheroes, in that I wasn’t sure if I actually […]

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Book Review: Dear Mr. Knightley

Dear Mr. Knightley

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay As you might guess from the title, this is another dip into Austen-inspired fiction. It is the story of Samantha Moore, a survivor of the Chicago foster system, who has found solace and protection by hiding behind her favorite characters from literature (including Austen’s). But now she has been offered a scholarship to journalism school by a charitable foundation, with the condition that she write regular letters to the organization’s founder to keep him apprised of her progress (and help draw her out of her literary shell). It is to be a one-way correspondence, […]

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Jane Austen Subculture

Jane Austen Subculture

My obvious affinity for the fantasy genre aside, I have an equally deep (if less obvious) weakness for all things Jane Austen. Her original novels first and foremost, of course. I’ve read them all, even Lady Susan. Pride & Prejudice will always hold a warm spot in my heart as my gateway drug to Austen and the story I like reading most overall, though sometimes I think I like Fanny from Mansfield Park more than Elizabeth. Sometimes. And the font I used for the heading above is called Jane Austen and based off of her handwriting. So, you know, I’ve […]

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Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan This is a weird and delightful read. As you might deduce from the name, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is not your typical bookstore. Clay, recently unemployed and now the new night clerk, notices something odd: most of the customers he encounters don’t actually buy anything, but instead borrow obscure books from what seems to be an exclusive lending library. And after a few weeks, he realizes there’s a pattern. Charting the pattern and confronting Penumbra leads Clay into a mysterious world of book-loving secret societies, code breakers, ancient typographers, and just possibly the […]

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What I Wore: Modern Fairytale

A few weeks ago, Vanessa contacted me about doing a themed outfit post. Specifically, the theme was to be ‘My Favorite Fairy Tale.’ I thought this was a fun idea (and good timing since I’m planning on reading Grimms’ Fairy Tales this month), so I signed up. It was a no brainer to me which fairytale I was going to pick. Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite. It’s not true love until he gives you a library, ladies! 😉 But seriously, I’ve always loved the story. Having a leading lady who is smart and loves books was […]

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