The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Weber

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Review first appeared in School Library Journal, January 2017.

WEBBER, Katherine. The Heartbeats of Wing Jones. 336p. Delacorte Press. Mar. 2017. $17.99. ISBN 9780399555022.

Gr 8 Up – Set in 1990’s Atlanta, this coming-of-age story is realistic fiction with a touch of magical realism, is full of diverse and strong female characters. Bullied for her looks, Wing Jones, half Chinese and half black, doesn’t stand out like her football star, golden boy brother, Marcus. After a night of drinking, Marcus causes an accident, killing two people and ending up in a coma.  Unable to sleep at night, worrying for Marcus and living on the brink of poverty, Wing starts running. Though Marcus is one of the reasons Wing is running, she is able to step out of his shadow, finally feeling acceptance and accomplishment. Aaron, Marcus’s best friend and Wing’s long-time crush, is also a runner, providing a romantic element and additional distraction for Wing. Running gives her the courage to embrace her differences and stand out. Wing’s family back-story regarding her father is heartbreaking, revealed early on, explaining why her father is not in the picture. Wing lives with her mother and both grandmothers, and as such, is surrounded by female role models with take-charge attitudes. The plot moves along quickly, written in first person through Wing’s perspective of the changing world around her. Fans of Jandy Nelson and Stephanie Perkins will enjoy Webber’s debut novel. VERDICT A uniquely original novel about family, love, and the courage to stand up to life’s challenges and triumph which will delight teen readers. Recommended as a general purchase for all libraries.

Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Who do You Love is a touching love story, and a well-written book about second chances and how the past can truly shape the present. It is the story of Rachel and Andy, who happen to meet in a hospital waiting room when they are 8 years old. Rachel is no stranger to hospitals, because she was born with a congenital heart defect and spends a lot of time in the hospital for multiple surgeries and tests. Her Jewish family is by-the-book, and affluent and she hasn’t ever had to do without much in her life. On the flip side, Andy is a sullen, mixed race boy who lives with his single mom in a poor neighborhood and acquires all of his clothing second-hand. After spending a few hours together sharing stories and laughing, both Rachel and Andy made lasting impressions on each other. Eight years later, Rachel and Andy happen to be on the same mission trip building a house together. Now they are no longer innocent 8 year olds, but hormone-raging teenagers who remember each other like they just met the day before. And Rachel thought the mission trip was going to be boring! Think again. The story continues to switch back and forth between the lives of Rachel, once snippy, sorority girl turned adult social worker and mother, and Andy, an avid runner who becomes an Olympic medalist and then a hardware store manager after an unfortunate, irreversible decision he makes. Each time Rachel and Andy meet up through the years, it’s clear that they are meant to be together but something always seems to get in their way. As the reader on the outside looking in at their relationship, I was even upset because I loved their characters and I wanted them to be together. Obviously, if a boy made me a heart out of a red paperclip, I would swoon and follow him to the ends of the earth!  Seriously though, I couldn’t put this book down. I really enjoyed the story line and the ending.