Finch and Birdie Franconi are from a circus family. Now the family business is in trouble, it is up to the twins to save it with their flying trapeze act. The twins are also a double-act at school. It has never mattered to Finch that everybody calls him a freak, because he and Birdie have always done their own thing.
When Birdie suffers a terrible accident, Finch must find a new double-act if he is going to save the family circus school. Can Finch overcome his feelings about school and new-boy Hector? Will he ever get over James Keane? Can Hector’s Dad accept the son he has?
A warm and witty YA novel about sexuality and identity.
This novel is as good as Meg Rosoff at her finest. A fresh and honest look at teenage life, and explored issues of sexuality and identity.
Finch Franconi’s safe place is circus school. He feels out of place everywhere else, especially at secondary school where he falls prey to the taunting comments of people like Kitty and James. Since an incident of bullying in his first year, Finch has orchestrated his own ‘act’. He dresses to be different, gives snarky remarks and generally acts as if he is a cut above his class mates. My heart bled for Finch, because I was exactly like him as a teenager. His issues didn’t come from nowhere. He has a really grotty time at school between the comments and the people refusing to spend a minute with him, but his reaction is to withdraw. To assume anybody who approaches him is against him. Kelly McCaughrain’s depiction of school life is so observant it is like watching footage from a hidden camera. She picks up on the way kids feel and how this affects their behaviour.
Circus School is the only place where a lot of the characters feel safe. We know from page one that it is under threat, and this keeps us turning the pages. There is a second question set up early on: will Finch get together with Hector? Finch isn’t exactly in denial about his sexuality, but he has issues with being open about it. Hector’s Dad is another obstacle between the boys. Where Finch’s parents are more relaxed about his sexuality than he is, Hector’s Dad doesn’t want him to make life difficult for himself.
Birdie sets up a blog toattract more people to Circus School. She schedules lots of posts before her accident. It is lovely to see a YA book where kids have a regular social media presence. Lots of teens on Twitter have said this is something they feel is too often left out of YA because it is not part of life adults want to depict. They have talked about social media being a large part of their lives. Like Editing Emma, Flying Tips For Flightless Birds picks up on the way people express themselves through blogging and social media.
This book is so lovely and warm and humorous. Finch can be deprecating but he is witty and observant and I laughed so many times just because something was a perfect representation of life. This is the book I needed when I was fifteen and it is one I will reread for the sheer joy.
Huge thanks to Walker YA and Kelly McCaughrain for my ARC of Flying Tips For Flightless Birds. Check back on Saturday when I will publish a Q and A with the lovely Kelly McCaughrain.