Carey, Janet Lee. Wenny Has Wings. Atheneum, 2004. ISBN 978-0689867590 240 pp. $
In a beautiful and eloquent series of letters to his sister Wenny, eleven year old Will North relates his near death experience after the accident that has taken his younger sister’s life, landed him in the hospital with broken bones, and devastated his father. As guilt-stricken Will moves through the grieving process and begins to cope with his loss and his unusual experience, the reader is moved to catharsis as well.
The tone of the young narrator is mostly believable as that of a thoughtful and emotional pre-adolescent who doesn’t always have the words to describe what he is seeing and feeling; occasionally, Will wavers from sounding too young, such as when he first explains his experience, and too old, such as when he and his friend are surfing the Internet. In spite of sounding young, the narrator’s near death experience sounds authentic. The falling apart of the family, especially with the mother newly pregnant, is heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful. The author manages to balance the sorrow of the book with day-to-day goings on, and even with humor. This is a sad story, but passages will evoke smiles as well.
This is a timely book in many ways: a study was recently released that concluded the near death experience is just a misfiring of the electrical impulses of the brain. This could also be used to put September 11th into some context and generate a discussion on loss and coping with tragedy and death.