(D) Ages 10-12, (E) Ages 12-15, Book Reviews, Boys, Middle Grades, Realistic Fiction
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Mayday by Karen Harrington

In Mayday, 13-year-old Wayne discovers that even a plane crash can have a silver lining, and treasures may hide under life’s hard knocks.


Mayday by Karen Harrington.  Little, Brown, 2016, 344 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grade, 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-14

While flying home from the funeral of his Uncle Reed at Arlington National Cemetery, Wayne Kavok and his mother experience an event that could have been their last: their plane falls out of the sky.  Both miraculously escape the wreckage, but Mom with multiple broken bones and Wayne with a temporary loss of his voice.  His face is a mess, too.  To help them transition back to normality, Wayne’s grandpa, a former army drill sergeant, moves in.  Once a drill sergeant, always a drill sergeant—the man is arrow-straight, tender as an iron bar, and accustomed to prompt obedience.  He’s an anvil laid on top of Wayne’s other troubles, like classmates who recoil from his face, a sort-of girlfriend who’s figuring out how to break up with him, and a dad (divorced and remarried) who refuses to grow up.  And he can’t talk back to any of it.

Such a catalogue of bad news could sink a typical middle-grade novel but, as they say, “life has other plans.”  Wayne makes a winsome narrator, whose obsessive love of facts (“I looked it up”) and anecdotes (“true story”) keep him from swamping in gloom.  But this is about more than a single disaster, or even about personal angst or family difficulties: it’s about becoming better for all that, and knowing whom to thank:

And I didn’t ask God why I was in the random plane crash that caused Grandpa to come and live with us.

I just bit my lip and said, Thank You.

Cautions: Language (one “my God,” 2-3 “farts”)

Overall Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic value: 4.5




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