Book Review

Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy

On the first read, I very much enjoyed Faith, a YA about a plus-size superhero who loves animals, her two best friends, her grandma, and fictional TV show The Grove, not necessarily in that order. Unfortunately, as soon as I tried applying thought to the book, it failed to make any sense. There’s a f/f romance, but this book is the first in a planned duology, so expect an inconclusive ending, and expect minimal superheroics until almost the end of the book.

Faith is a high school senior with two close friends, Ches and Matt. She is a recent orphan and lives with her grandmother. Faith works at an animal shelter and writes a fan blog about her favorite show, The Grove. Also, and this secret is known pretty much only to Faith, Faith can fly.

Faith is gobsmacked when the star of The Grove, Dakota, shows up in her little town and wants to adopt a dog. Pretty soon Faith is neglecting Ches and Matt and hanging out with Dakota. Meanwhile people and pets are mysteriously vanishing from town. Could it be that something sinister is afoot? Yes, it could be.

I enjoyed the book primarily because I enjoyed Faith, a flawed person who tries her best to be a good one. Her size is rarely alluded to but she describes herself as, “Fat. Plus-size. Curvy. Whatever you want to call it.” Her size does not stop her from having a romantic life and she feels no more or less positive about herself than any of the other teens in the book do about their own bodies. The fact that she is bisexual is not made into an issue, either; it’s just a fact that exists.

This was a fun book that avoids much angst despite having characters with serious real-life problems. In fact, I wanted the book to go much deeper into the issues it raises. In the course of the story, the book glances at class differences, drug addiction, elder care, and violent death. But instead of exploring each issue with any depth, the book barely mentions them and then moves on. It creates a jarring tone because the book seems light on the surface with a lot of trauma underneath.

There are many implausibilities and contrived conflicts. For instance:

  • Why does Faith keep secrets from Ches and Matt? Clearly she’s genre savvy enough to know that it won’t make them safer, and surely she trusts them given the long period of time that they have been close friends.
  • Can’t these three people text each other? Why does Matt blame all Ches’ problems on Faith? A single message on Instagram, which my teen consultant assures me is a way in which teens talk to each other, would have cleared up most of the conflict.

The mystery that leads to Faith taking on full superheroic activity is introduced early but it’s a very slow burn. Readers should be aware that from the beginning of the book people and animals are found in apparently permanent catatonic states – a truly horrifying (but apparently painless) thing that does not appear to be reversible. There is also one really sad and painful plot line:

SPOILER

Faith’s grandmother develops dementia. It’s given the happiest ending possible in that her grandmother is lucid enough to make her own decision to enter a nursing home after Faith graduates from high school. It’s sad, scary, and devastating, and something that can’t be solved with superpowers.

Faith is a geek who loves all the shows that I do, she’s a good friend until she gets sucked into the Dakota vortex (that sounded less dirty in my head), she is responsible, and she tries so hard to do the right thing by animals, her employer, her school her friends, and her grandmother. Her flaws are believable flaws that have a lot to do with her age. She is, simply, INTENSELY relatable in a way I seldom see, which made a multitude of plot sins seem unimportant in comparison. It’s her character, and her bonds with the supporting characters, that earn this a B- instead of a C.

The ‘Faith’ character has been a comic book superheroine since 1992. I had never heard of her before and trust me once I did I put those comics on my library hold faster than you can say “It’s a bird!” I’m looking forward to them. Meanwhile, I recommend Faith: Taking Flight if you promise not to think about it too hard – or at all, really. No thinking. Just enjoy the representation and the thrill of a person discovering her full potential in the world.

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Faith: Taking Flight by Julie Murphy

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Add Your Comment →

  1. 1
    DonnaMarie says:
    5+

    @Carrie, regarding texting, this appears to be an origin story for a character that has been around since the early 90’s. I should Google it, but the Faith comics I was reading a while back all took place well after high school. So, no texting because the story predates it? Unless they’re pictured using cell phones, in which case ignore an old woman.

  2. 2
    Ariadna says:
    3+

    Seconding what DonnaMarie said. I too think this is an origin story? I’m wondering how much I will enjoy this book since I’ve gotten used to the comic books. They are pretty fun w/its send ups of the superhero trope, btw.

  3. 3
    Lisa F says:
    2+

    Thirding @DonnaMarie, they’re right, this is Faith’s origin story and one of the first books about how she becomes a superherione in the mid-90’s. If you want more derring do or a more modern setting, you should check out the later volumes in her story.

  4. 4
    CarrieS says:
    7+

    It’s a rebooted origin story set in present day. There are cell phones and Faith and her friends text – they just don’t tell each other the information that would resolve their conflicts. Sorry for the confusion – it’s not really texting that’s a problem, more a general state of secrets and misunderstanding.

  5. 5
    DonnaMarie says:
    1+

    @Carrie, thanks for the update. Maybe I’ll stick with the Faith I already know. Stories with people who don’t communicate well are problematic for me.

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