The Chance To Fly

Amulet. Apr. 2021. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781419743931.
Gr 3-7–Thirteen-year-old Natalie Beacon, who is white and has used a wheelchair since she was little, isn’t happy to be leaving behind her best friend and moving across the country for her mom’s new job. Nat’s parents are eager for her to adjust; her father has already found her a wheelchair-racing team, a sport she enjoyed in California. She spots a poster during practice announcing auditions for a young performer’s version of the musical Wicked. Musicals are Nat’s passion and performing is her professional dream. When she can’t convince her parents to let her audition, Nat decides to secretly audition anyway and is thrilled to get a part, ultimately convincing her parents to let her participate. She instantly falls in with a group of theater geeks who become her best friends. But she experiences alienating challenges in the production: She is asked to only sing and not dance, which leaves her feeling “half cast,” and then the bus for their weekend retreat doesn’t have a wheelchair lift. When a theater fire cancels the production, it’s up to Nat to convince her new friends that the show must go on. Written by Tony Award–winner Stroker, who uses a wheelchair, and Davidowitz, this fast-paced novel features an extensive and diverse cast of characters. The descriptive third-person narrative helps readers visualize the characters and the production, though the sheer number of characters may require some backtracking, and the depth of character development can be inconsistent. Seeing the obstacles Nat faces daily and watching her learn to advocate for herself may inspire readers to do the same. Serious scenes, like Nat’s crush Malik discussing his experience as the only Black student in school, and learning why Nat uses a wheelchair, are poignant, as is Nat’s evolving relationship with her parents.
VERDICT Though the novel leans heavily on musical history and theatre terminology, young readers do not need a knowledge of musicals and theater to enjoy this #OwnVoices novel. Young disabled performers will be excited to see representation, and all readers will be rooting for Nat.

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