Author: Annie Cardi
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: April 2014
Hardback: 344 pages
Stand alone or series: Standalone
How did I get this book: Borrowed from the library
Let’s start with a brief synopsis:
When your mom thinks she’s Amelia Earhart, navigating high school, first love, and family secrets is like flying solo without a map.
Driver’s ed and a first crush should be what Alex Winchester is stressed out about in high school – and she is. But what’s really on her mind is her mother. Why is she dressing in Dad’s baggy khaki pants with a silk scarf around her neck? What is she planning when she pores over maps in the middle of the night? When did she stop being Mom and start being Amelia Earhart? Alex tries to keep her budding love life apart from the growing disaster at home as her mother sinks further into her delusions. But there are those nights, when everyone else is asleep, when it’s easier to confide in Amelia than it ever was to Mom. Now, as Amelia’s flight plans become more intense, Alex is increasingly worried that Amelia is planning her final flight – the flight from which she never returns. What could possibly be driving Mom’s delusions, and how far will they take her?
What I thought:
I thought that the relationship between Alex and her mother was wonderfully delicate and well-done. Like most teenagers, Alex doesn’t get along with her mother, but as her mother’s mental state deteriorates (which I also thought was wholly believable and well-executed), Alex finds herself able to talk to her mother more and discuss what is happening in her life. The only problem is that her mother doesn’t know Alex is her daughter; she believes she’s Amelia Earhart and that Alex is a great female pilot, part of her Ninety-Nines. Cardi handles the deterioration of the mom’s mental health with great care, and thought I don’t know too much about this kind of mental illness, it felt realistic and authentic.
Let me talk a little about Alex though. She got on my last nerve. Alex is terrified of driving: she has a deep phobia that makes her freeze up and unable to breathe when she gets behind the wheel. The phobia has come from a variety of things, but mostly it has stemmed from almost being hit by a car as a child. This phobia was understandable, and I know that phobias like this do exist so it wasn’t this that I didn’t like. In her driver’s ed class, she is unable to stop the car and runs over part of the football field. Understandably, a lot of people, especially the football players, are angry with her. So people say mean things to her, pick on her, etc., and after like TWO DAYS, she says this:
Until I’d messed up the football field, no one had bothered me at school. When I was on the soccer team, I’d been almost popular. Now all people did was bother me and I was sick of it. –Page 85
Oh, shut up! It had been just a couple of days. Cry me a river. I used to be popular, and now people hate me. She’s like this for a lot of the book. She has a group of really supportive friends, but she doesn’t tell them anything about her mother because she’s afraid they’ll think less of her or something stupid like that. They’re your best friends!! Also, her romance with Jim Wiley (which was weird in and of itself) develops quickly and he tells her all about his past, but she feels like she can’t tell him anything and that he doesn’t want to be her boyfriend. I just thought that Alex’s confidence issues were weird and didn’t make a lot of sense. I will say that I appreciated the fact that Cardi did not trivialize Alex’s problems: while she was kind of annoying and strange, she did feel a lot like a real teenager.
I want to talk a little about the mental illness issue. I don’t know what it says about me, but I have always been interested in the mind and mental illnesses, so I was fascinated by Alex’s mom’s illness. It was something completely unusual that I’d never really heard of. It captivated me and felt completely real. I enjoyed getting to know more about Amelia Earhart, who was an amazing woman.
I’m going to have a little rant here. Feel free to skip it if you want. There is a character named Edward who is prematurely balding. Alex and her friend Maddie joke that he is going to have a comb-over by graduation. Maddie gags and says, “Oh, God, at least we’ll have those funny hats to wear. He can cover it up so the rest of us don’t vomit.” (page 222) Excuse my language, but fuck you. That is not funny and it is hurtful. How can a book that deals so delicately with mental illness make fun of something else that people can’t help? It’s not funny, and I am tired of books, movies, and TV shows that think it’s okay to make fun of baldness. All these jokes are doing is making children (and adults) think it’s okay to say horrible things about their peers who have no hair. I know this doesn’t have much to do with the book, as it’s only one line, but it pissed me off.
The bottom line:
I thought this book dealt extremely well with mental illness and Alex’s phobia of driving. Alex herself was a little annoying at times, though she seemed a lot like a real teenager. I don’t know if it was quite as powerful as I wanted it to be though.
Rating: 7 – Pretty good
Reading next: Paradigm by Ceri A. Lowe