On Little Wings

Image of On Little Wings
Release Date: 
May 29, 2013
Viking Books for Young Readers
Reviewed by: 

“. . . not your typical young adult beach read.”

Sixteen-year-old Jennifer Newsome is the only child of parents who are also only children . . . or that’s what Jennifer has been led to believe all her life.

One day while perusing the family library, Jennifer comes upon an old photo that slips from one of her mom’s paperbacks. Jennifer stares at it, noticing the girl in it shares an uncanny likeliness to herself. When Jennifer questions her mom Claire, tension results, for her mother is still hurt by the sister who wronged her many years ago.

Jennifer and her best friend Cleo search for Sarah, Claire’s sister, through the Internet. Knowing the town in Maine where they were was raised, Jennifer takes a shot at finding her long-lost aunt. Surprisingly, Jennifer locates her; at Cleo’s insistence, she calls her.

Sarah is surprised, but pleased to hear from her niece. Jennifer feels a need to connect with and meet her and insists on visiting the family home in Smithport, Maine.

Claire and Jennifer, always close, find a chasm developing between them when Jennifer leaves her Nebraska residence to travel east. Jennifer cannot understand what her mother is keeping from her and why she does not want her to go there, but she is adamant about making the trip.

Aunt Sarah, a school teacher, is off for the summer, which gives them lots of time to spend together. Jennifer and she bond from the beginning, and the citizens of the picturesque town declare Jennifer one of their own, giving her sense of belonging.

Much to Jennifer’s displeasure, Sarah will not discuss the estrangement between her and Claire, though Jennifer is determined to learn the truth.

Nathan, a former student of Sarah’s, arrives every night to engage in a literary “game” with Jennifer. They quote famous poems and other writings to help them interpret feelings they have and end up sharing without actually coming out with what they want to say.

Drawn to this shy guy, Jennifer wonders if he can shed light on the sisters’ complicated story. Added to this mix is Little, an elderly neighbor and intimate family friend, who also has secrets from her past, some of which she discloses to Jennifer. She knows about Sarah and Claire’s quarrel, but will not disclose a thing unless Jennifer can convince her mom to return to Maine and make amends with Sarah.

Ms. Sirois’ debut novel contains a flowery and captivating writing style:

“The sun had already sunk below the horizon, but its blazing arms had not dropped from the sky yet. Pink fingers scraped through the clouds, leaving purple bruises under the tired eyes of the day.”


“The wind and waves made one unified song, a sweeping of the air like heavenly brooms, brushing across the world and clearing away the daylight.”

What terrible secrets and mistakes keep the sisters estranged? As Jennifer meets the townsfolk who knew her mom, she learns a bit about her mother’s past while making new friends.

Between the expressive prose, snippets from academic writings, and the in-depth characterization of place and people, On Little Wings grabs attention from the beginning. Add to the mix the mystery of long held family secrets, sorrows, first love, and burgeoning self awareness, and this novel, though marketed for ages 12 and up, seems appropriate for an older age group that can appreciate exceptional writing. This summer release is not your typical young adult beach read.