Wings (2009) is Aprilynne Pike's debut novel. The first thing to know about it is that the idea has been thrown around that Wings might possibly be the next Twilight. I have my own varied and complex issues with Twilight but I can see the connection. The tone, protagonist, and a lot of other things are very different. But the general "vibe" of the two books are strikingly similar. The jacket praise from Stephenie Meyer also helps.* That said, if you loved Twilight, you should read this book. If you hated it, or if you wanted to like it but couldn't, you should also read this book. Finally, if you are with me in being on Team Jacob, you must read this book for reasons that will become apparent as the story progresses.**
For the most part Laurel is your average fifteen-year-old girl. Yes she is lithe, agile, and movie star pretty. And yes, she was dropped on her parents' doorstep in a basket when she was three. And no she does not have an eating disorder, just unique eating habits. Nothing especially exceptional there. At least not until Laurel's back sprouts a mysterious set of wings.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. The story starts when Laurel and her parents leave their super small town for a small town. In addition to moving, Laurel also has to adjust to going to public school after ten years of homeschooling. Then, of course, there is the issue of the wings to contend with.
Understandably thrown by this development, Laurel turns to her new friend David to figure out what's going on. Afraid of becoming a walking, talking experiment, Laurel keeps the wings under wraps with David's help as they try to figure out what exactly is going on. This crisis makes the sale of her family's homestead seem rather mundane--even if the buyer, Mr. Barnes, seems unaccountably sinister.
However, as Laurel learns more about her wings and her home, it becomes apparent that the two events are intimately linked both to Laurel and Tamani, the mysterious faerie living on her family's land with his own shocking revelations about Laurel's current situation... and her past.
When I first started Wings, I wasn't sure how I felt about Laurel. Narrated in the third person, the story mentions early on that Laurel has no problem looking different (really pretty) compared to everyone else--a comment that rubbed me the wrong way. However, as the plot moved forward and I got to know Laurel better, she grew on me. The story, which was slow to get to the action, picked up at around the same time. By the end of the book I was a fan of both the story and Laurel.***
Some reviews have argued that the crux of the plot is slow in coming and tagged on to the end of the novel. I would counter that said readers were merely not paying attention to Pike's foreshadowing. I will grant that the novel was depopulated of ancillary characters, but Pike does a lot with the characters she does have, providing well-described and authentic companions for Laurel.
I'm a big fan of traditional fairy stories, but I also really enjoyed the spin that Pike takes on the usual fairy lore here. In addition to creating an utterly novel mythology surrounding fairies (and other mythical creatures), Pike explains all of her "facts"--something that is crucial to making a rich, vivid story.
* The praise from Meyer is actually more than strategic marketing. If you read the acknowledgments, Pike gives a special thank you to Stephenie which suggests that the authors do really know each other. Plus, I totally agree with Meyer's statement about the "ingenuity" and "loveliness" of this book.
** Okay, I'll give you one hint: Tamani, to me, has a lot in common with everyone's favorite werewolf.
*** I didn't love the "love triangle" aspect but for me that was more because there was never any contest to who I would rather hang out with. Maybe that's me...