So during my last semester at university I decided to do a class on recreational literature for young people. One of the major assignment was to keep a reading journal of ten young adult/children’s books. They list of books had to have been published 2008 or later unless permission was granted, and I needed to have some internal theme or guideline to what I was picking. I decided I wanted to read books with boy protagonists, as I felt I hadn’t read many in a while. I’ll be posting the small reviews in dribs and drabs, but here is the first*: ‘Airman’ by Eoin Colfer.
Eoin Colfer’s ‘Count of Monte Cristo’-like offering is as different from his famed Artemis Fowl series as chalk is to cheese. Set at the turn of the 20th century, in the middle of man’s race to flight, the novel follows young Conor Broekhart. Raised alongside the Princess of the tiny island sovereignty he lives in, Conor and his tutor are obsessed with cracking the secret to machine powered flight. This idyllic life is shattered completely when the King is murdered, and Conor framed for the crime. Sentenced to life imprisonment on the notorious island prison and diamond mine of Little Saltee, the only way Conor can survive is by dreaming of his escape, and planning his first flight.
It took me a few pages to adjust to the language in the novel, which has an authentic, almost formal feel to correspond with the time it is set. Colfer’s writing also includes some delightfully witty turns of phrase, which provoked a smile even in some of the most dreadful and dire situations.
Our dashing hero is really put through the ringer in this story, and yet his cleverness and tenacity make the reader love him even more. Conor is a nuanced and carefully fleshed out character, and though he doesn’t always make the right decisions you really ache for him to win, even if winning means running away. Even the criminals of the piece are well drawn, and perhaps could have gotten away with their crimes had they not been blind to their own fatal flaws.
Perhaps this book is appropriate for more experienced readers than its placement in the junior (younger children) section of the library would suggest, due to the complicated vocabulary and frankly grim prison scenes, however I could see a precocious younger reader enjoying the book as well.
I really could not be more impressed with this book if I tried, especially given it was an impulse read.
*The first as listed in my diary, but I arranged them alphabetically and now can’t remember what order I actually read the books in.