The Wall and the Wing by Laura Ruby

The Wall and the WingThe Wall and the Wing

by Laura Ruby

  • VOYA: 4Q3P M
  • Lexile Level: 770L
  • Reading level: Ages 10 and up
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (February 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060752556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060752552

In a city full of people who can fly (wings), Gurl is a leadfoot, her feet firmly planted on the ground.  While at Hope House for the Homeless and Hopeless, however, she discovers that she has a far more interesting talent.  This orphan can slowly disappear, fading right into the wall.  At first, Gurl uses this skill to escape the dark, depressing orphanage and roam the New York City streets in search of food.  During her nighttime escapades, she rescues a strange cat, but her new friend is discovered by the evil Mrs. Terwiliger, director of the home.  She has also uncovered Gurl’s talent and uses her affection for the cat to blackmail her into stealing for her.  Soon Gurl is loose in NYC snatching expensive perfume, designer clothing and other baubles for her worthless captor.  Then a new boy comes to the home, and for the first time, Gurl has a friend.  Together, the two flee the orphanage.  It is not long, however, before others learn of Gurl’s rare ability and want to use it for themselves.  With Bug at her side, the Wall (Gurl) and the Wing (Bug) are on the run, encountering a strange, grass-haired professor, giant sewer rats, a former-diaper-model-turned-gangster, and a whole cast of bizarre and delightful characters.

Ruby’s strength is definitely the creation of outrageous and otherworldly characters, and her setting– a future NYC– is the perfect setting for their antics.  While Gurl and Bug are interesting, the real star of the show for me is Sweetcheeks Grabowski, the aforementioned gangster.  His tirades and schemes will keep readers laughing and guessing, far after the novel has finished.  Also of note is the Professor, the one adult who actually almost acts like one.  He is, however, so immersed in his inventions that even that is temporary at best.

Regarding the story, the author does a fine job of imagining a future world in which everyone but the select few can fly.  In this world, Gurl discovers that someone who seemingly has nothing remarkable to offer may actually possess a rare and much-sought-after skill.  There is also a fun– if slightly contrived– side story about discovering who you really are.

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