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)