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Taking Flight by Sheena Wilkinson

The Blurb On The Back:

”Beyond the fence everything is dark, but in here is our own lit-up world. Just me and Flight. Our breath snakes into the night like the aftermath of a firework.”


The only riding fifteen-year-old Declan has ever done is joyriding. When he’s forced to stay with his snobby cousin, ‘Princess’ Vicky, he’s shocked to find himself falling in love with horses. Vicky would do anything to keep Declan out of her already perfect life and away from her precious show jumper, Flight, no matter who gets hurt ...

Moving from a harsh Belfast housing estate to the glamour of the show jumping ring, Taking Flight is a fast-paced story full of conflict, jealousy and courage.




15 year-old Declan Kelly has tried to stay out of trouble since being sentence to 3 months in young offender’s institution for joyriding. It’s not easy. His mother is an alcoholic who hasn’t recovered since being dumped by Barry, a drug-dealing bully who physically abused Declan for grassing up his son, Emmet as his accomplice while Emmet himself likes to taunt Declan about his mother.

When an accidental drugs overdose forces Declan’s mum into rehab, Declan goes to live with his aunt Colette, who lives in a big house in a better neighbourhood with his cousin Vicky. Forced to accompany Vicky to the stables for her horse riding lessons, Declan discovers that he has an affinity with horses and that they can offer him a better future. But the snobbish Vicky doesn’t want Declan anywhere near her home, her mum and especially her horse, Flight, and will do anything to keep him away ...

Sheena Wilkinson’s debut novel follows a common theme in contemporary YA literature – a boy leading a life which offers little future finds that there’s more out there – but what sets it apart is the authenticity that Wilkinson gives to her characters. Told in first person by both Declan and Vicky, the characters’ respective voices evoke their different lives in Northern Ireland and their different perspectives. Declan for me is a real stand out character. Nothing in his chapters struck a duff note, from his unwillingness to discuss his problems to the simple joy he finds in working with horses. Although the snobby Vicky didn’t work as quite as well for me, this is mainly because Wilkinson tries slightly too hard to excuse her at times awful behaviour – but otherwise her self-absorption and selfishness is all too believable.

Wilkinson has a fine eye for description and her evocation of the council estate where Declan lives works well. She also manages to convey the joy that horse riding can give someone and although the story hinges on horses, this isn’t a ‘horsey’ novel so the horse scenes don’t overpower the narrative.

All in all, I thought that this was a well written novel that kept me turning the pages and which showed a real flair and talent for narrative voice. While the story perhaps isn’t the most original out there, it is nevertheless told with aplomb and talent. I very much look forward to reading Wilkinson’s next novel.

The Verdict:

Although the story isn’t the most original out there (essentially a boy leading a life with little future discovers that there’s something more out there by looking after a horse), this is a well-written debut novel that kept me turning the pages and which is told with aplomb. The talent that Sheena Wilkinson shows in these pages mean that I will definitely check out her next novel.

Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming and yalitlovers.
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