Monday, July 17, 2023

Review - Wings in the Wild [AUDIO]

Wings in the Wild

by Margarita Engle
Date: 2023
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Reading level: YA
Book type: verse novel
Length: 1 hour 46 minutes
Format: audio book [unabridged]
Source: library

This gorgeously romantic contemporary novel-in-verse from award-winning author Margarita Engle tells the “inspiring and hopeful” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) love story of two teens fighting for climate action and human rights.

Winged beings are meant to be free. And so are artists, but the Cuban government has criminalized any art that doesn’t meet their approval. Soleida and her parents protest this injustice with their secret sculpture garden of chained birds. Then a hurricane exposes the illegal art, and her parents are arrested.

Soleida escapes to Central America alone, joining the thousands of Cuban refugees stranded in Costa Rica while seeking asylum elsewhere. There she meets Dariel, a Cuban American boy whose enigmatic music enchants birds and animals—and Soleida.

Together they work to protect the environment and bring attention to the imprisoned artists in Cuba. Soon they discover that love isn’t about falling—it’s about soaring together to new heights. But wings can be fragile, and Soleida and Dariel come from different worlds. They are fighting for a better future—and the chance to be together.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I didn't expect to dislike this one as much as I did. I've read a couple of Margarita Engle's other verse novels, both historical fiction set in Cuba, and really enjoyed them. I was curious to see what a verse novel was like in audiobook format. I can't say that I was impressed. Then again, I don't think I would've liked this book anyway, even if I'd read a copy.

Aside from being very hard to follow (which may simply be one of the limitations of the audio format here), the characters are flat, the story fizzles, and the whole thing gets very, very preachy. Dariel's anger over climate change is to the point of being off-putting, and a few times the narrative devolves into statistics and scolding. I almost wondered if this thing had been ghostwritten by Greta Thunberg.

Yes, deforestation is a problem. Yes, artists being persecuted in Cuba is awful. Yes, being a refugee must suck. Those are the things I really wanted to read about. Instead, we got a weak story with contrived relationship complications, a confusing timeline, anti-adult sentiment, and a little too much preaching about how the world is toast if we don't meet yet another arbitrary target for carbon-emission reductions (which will probably be pushed ahead another few years when we reach 2040 and we're not all dead).

If I read any other books by this author in the future, I'll be sticking to her historical fiction... and staying away from the audiobooks.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Performance: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

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