Review: The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden by Philippa Dowding

Strange Case of Gwendolyn Golden

From Dundurn:

This morning, I woke up on the ceiling … So begins the strange story of Gwendolyn Golden. One perfectly ordinary day for no apparent reason, she wakes up floating around her room like one of her little brother’s Batman balloons.

Puberty is weird enough. Everyone already thinks she’s an oddball with anger issues because her father vanished in a mysterious storm one night when she was six. Then there are the mean, false rumours people are spreading about her at school. On top of all that, now she’s a flying freak.

How can she tell her best friend or her mother? How can she live her life? After Gwendolyn almost meets disaster flying too high and too fast one night, help arrives from the most unexpected place. And stranger still? She’s not alone.

Gwendolyn Golden isn’t your average tweenager. Ever since her dad mysteriously vanished during a storm, she finds herself yelling, unable to stop. Now, as if she needed something else to set her apart from the other kids at school, she wakes up with the ability to fly, er, float. The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden by Philippa Dowding (Dundurn) tells the story of how Gwendolyn deals with her curious new ability and how it turns her world upside down (both literally and figuratively).

With one of the best opening scenes I’ve read in a long time, Gwendolyn Golden is an absolutely charming read from page one. I was instantly curious about this girl who wakes up on her bedroom ceiling, and I am not ashamed to admit that it had me giggling on more than one occasion.

But as light as this book is, what perhaps impressed me the most was the story’s darker side. Gwendolyn doesn’t handle her father’s disappearance well, even though it happened several years ago; instead she bottles up her pain. As a result she ends up screaming uncontrollably at schoolmates. I think showing young teen readers a heroine—even a magical heroine—with anger issues is important. Especially since Gwendolyn isn’t a perpetually brooding girl; she’s usually very sunny…until she’s not.

In a bit more abstract way, this book also touches on depression through Gwendolyn’s encounter with the dark Shadow, a being that preys on the negative emotions of Night Flyers (like Gwendolyn) by filling their heads with dark thoughts. It’s all too easy to be bogged down with thoughts of you’re not pretty enough… you’ll never fit in… Or worse, what’s the point…? So having a heroine who finds the courage to fight against these dark whisperings is inspirational.

Fans of Vikki VanSickle’s Words that Start with B trilogy, and Joanne Levy’s Small Medium at Large, will find a friend in Gwendolyn Golden.

♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (3.5/5 hearts)

This book was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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