How Wendy Redbird Dancing Survived the Dark Ages of Nought, by Lyn Fairchild Hawks
Sometimes a novel steps out of the safety of genre and takes its chances. Fairchild Hawks’ book is one such, and by my reckoning, it’s a success.
The story here is of Wendy, a fatherless sixteen year-old girl coping with a flighty, romantic mother and a crusty, lost-in-the-last-century grandmother. Wendy is smart, wise beyond her years, but she has a hard time with high school and its social conventions. And Wendy is hiding another secret – abuse at ten years old, at the hands of one of her mother’s former boyfriends.
At a loss for intimate friends, Wendy adopts pop star Michael Jackson as her avatar, his music constantly preaching, consoling, reassuring. Then her world is shaken by a tandem evil, as Wendy might term it – Shaye Tann, a music A&R man, and Shaye’s latest project, Deanna Faire, a teen country singer, who happens to be Wendy’s high school nemesis.
Wendy does make one friend – a black girl named Tanay, who is also struggling with high school life, and they determine to run away from “it all” -if only briefly.
Fairchild Hawks’ writing here is taut, her dialogue alive with teen jargon and edginess. And there’s the masterfully slow unwrapping of Wendy’s interactions with Shaye Tann. As I read, I wanted to criticize the novel’s latter pages – the runaway segment – as being too adjunct to the rest of Wendy’s story – almost an afterthought. But the author uses her story telling abilities to make this segment the novel’s most compelling part.
This is what I mean by taking chances. This is what I mean by authorial talent in taking such chances.
Is this novel mainstream fiction? Young adult? Literary? Yes to all, and possibly inclusive of other genre subsets as well. Fairchild Hawks’ novel is an example of the direction fiction seems to be taking in the 21st century – a story written from the heart, with talent, going where it will, that makes genre inconsequential.
My rating 19 of 20 stars