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Maybe it was bad karma. Maybe it was just bad luck. Whatever the reason, fifteen-year-old David was born defective. His bug eyes, pinched face, and hearing aids are obvious, but there is a secret David keeps from everyone, even his foster parents. Because of a thin layer of skin hidden under each arm, David can fly—well, glide is more like it. Terrified of doctors, wary of letting down his guard, David is determined to hide his secret at any cost. But then David meets Cheetah, a girl whose own defect doesn't ...

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Maybe it was bad karma. Maybe it was just bad luck. Whatever the reason, fifteen-year-old David was born defective. His bug eyes, pinched face, and hearing aids are obvious, but there is a secret David keeps from everyone, even his foster parents. Because of a thin layer of skin hidden under each arm, David can fly—well, glide is more like it. Terrified of doctors, wary of letting down his guard, David is determined to hide his secret at any cost. But then David meets Cheetah, a girl whose own defect doesn't diminish her spirit, and suddenly his life begins to take wing.

In this arresting new novel, Will Weaver creates an unforgettable character on the path to discovering that some blessings can be a curse—and some curses a blessing.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Beth E. Andersen
He smells bad, eats bugs, his face is a disaster, and by the way, he has webbing under his armpits that makes flight possible. Fifteen-year-old David is such a bully magnet that his troubled mother sends him off to Minnesota to live with the Trotwoods, kindly hog farmers/foster parents. When bullying again catches up with David, he is transferred to a school for "challenging" students, where he falls in love with bighearted Cheetah, who is struggling with considerable health issues of her own. Soon David's penchant for flight is discovered, thus triggering that uniquely American obscenity known as media frenzy. Desperate people pour into Rochester to be cured by the "angel" amongst them. His notoriety rekindles the interest of a team of doctors, who had studied his case of "dermis redundancy" and "avian dactylicism" years before when he had been known as Charles LeBattier. Enter Media Spectacle #2-the docs want to give David an Extreme Makeover with Hollywood-gorgeous good looks. David grapples with the chance to be like everyone else, thus ending his tortured lonely life. But does freedom come not in changing the package but in accepting it? Cheetah and a boy dying of cancer step in to show David another way of being comfortable in his skin. Weaver, an acclaimed teen lit author, skillfully interweaves the improbable with twenty-first-century realities in this provocative novel of the ultimate cost of being so, so different.
Children's Literature
What price should we be willing to pay for a rare, extraordinary gift? What if that gift is made possible only by the possession of a body regarded by others as disfigured, distorted, and defective? When is difference from others a curse, and when is it a blessing? Fifteen-year-old foster-child David has a short face, bug eyes, a stooped back, painfully sensitive hearing, and wings. Doctors call his condition “Ichthyosis vulgaris” --which he knows has “something to do with birdlike and ugly”--but they cannot know the strange joy he feels as he swoops down off a high cliff in the night like a soaring angel. When David is sent to Oak Leaf Alternative School, for the first time he encounters other young people who, like him, have “a story,” including epilectic Cheetah, with whom he falls in love. Then David is confronted with a choice: Should he have reconstructive surgery that will turn him into conventionally handsome “New Guy” and clip his wings forever? The resolution of the story is somewhat predictable--would anyone publish a young adult novel that encouraged teens to alter themselves surgically to become more like everyone else? One might wish that Weaver had allowed David to entertain a less all-or-nothing choice: couldn’t some of his grotesque facial features be corrected without robbing him of the gift of flight? Weaver’s unusual and compelling novel raises profound and important philosophical questions that should be of intense interest to any reader who has pondered the price of conformity. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
KLIATT - Paula Rohrlick
With his bugged-out eyes, pinched face and hearing aids, David looks different from his classmates—pretty much the kiss of death when you're 16. But little do they know how different David really is: the hearing aids are there to keep sounds out, and he has wings tucked under his arms, wings with which he can glide from great heights. Living with foster parents on a Minnesota hog farm, David has managed to keep his wings a secret from everyone. Then he meets Cheetah, a girl with epilepsy, and falls for her. When David is injured gliding from a cliff, his secret comes to light. Doctors offer plastic surgery to make him like every other teen—but some people believe he's an angel, and his ability to fly brings hope to terminal children at the hospital. In the end, David must decide whether his difference is really a defect, or a gift. Weaver, the author of Full Service and other books for YAs, offers up this intriguing, suspenseful parable for contemplative readers, who will find themselves empathizing with David and wondering what they would do. A good novel to start discussions.
Kirkus Reviews
A teen with congenital physical abnormality must chose between being "normal" or "special." When David was 12, his mother sent him to Minnesota to live with distant relatives where he would be "safe." Since then, David has shifted from one foster home to another. At 15, he's finally living with a kind couple who seem to genuinely care about him and not mind that he is "different." Although he's quiet, polite and intelligent, David's short face, bug eyes, stooped back, strange body odor and hearing aids have led to peer bullying at the local high school and a transfer to Oak Leaf Alternative School. But David has another physical "defect" he's hiding from everyone including Cheetah, a young woman with severe epilepsy and a refreshing attitude. Attracted to Cheetah, David fears she'll reject him as a freak if she knows about his "defect." When he's eventually given a chance to surgically correct his physical condition, Cheetah shows him what's really important. Told with sensitivity and insight, this exploration of a young man's journey to self-acceptance seems particularly compelling in a world of extreme makeovers. (Fiction. 13-16)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374317737
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 7/24/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,491,155
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

WILL WEAVER is the author of numerous books for young adults. His most recent novel, Full Service, was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and Kirkus Reviews, in a starred review, hailed it as “pitch perfect” and “superb.” He lives in Bemidji, Minnesota..

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Read an Excerpt

From Defect

The fight is going down tonight. By the time school lets out, word has spread. Even the Student Council types who have thrown the rare "Hey" David's way turn their backs on him.

"Just because you look weird, that's no reason why you have to act weird," kids whisper.

"If people like David just tried to fit in, they wouldn't have so much trouble."

"It's really not Kael's fault."

That would be Kael Grimes, David's main tormentor. David's ingrown hair. David's zit that never goes away. This is Minnesota, where people stare at anything new or different, but Kael has been watching him for eight months, six days, and about three hours. In other words, since David started high school here at Valley View High. Right now Kael and clowns are clustered twenty lockers down the hallway—as usual thinking David can't hear them. One of the many things Kael doesn't know about David is that his flesh-colored "hearing-aids" are there to keep the sound out.

"I shouldn't have to look at that freak all day," Kael mutters. He's a short, wiry wrestler type with blond-tipped brown hair.

"His head looks like it got run over and squashed," a pal chimes in.

"His mother must have smoked crack or something."

"Maybe she drank a lot—there's that thing called feeble alcohol syndrome," Kael says.

David has been waiting for this moment. He gives his locker a major, theatrical I've-finally-had-enough slam and stalks up to Kael. Heads turn; people nudge one another. "Whoa, watch out!" somebody says

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 20, 2008

    more from this reviewer


    I enjoyed this book but I think the author needed to figure out where he was going. The story starts with a teenage male who has a defect. His face is deformed and he has wings (like bat wings that he can fold under his arms and keep secret). He also likes eating bugs, adding to the bat-like analogy. Then he is seen flying and people start thinking he's an angel. I'm fine with either path - mutant or angel - but the author should have made a decision which he wanted to go with before writing the story.

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  • Posted October 27, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for

    David is more than just odd, or strange, or different. David is kind of a genetic anomaly, truly a freak of nature. His "hearing aids" actually minimize sound, under his hat are bat-like ears, and under his sweatshirt, well, that's the craziest part of all. David actually has wings. Not big feathery things, but a thin layer of tissue that allows him to coast through the air if he jumps from a high point. <BR/><BR/>Anybody in high school knows that being different isn't usually a good thing. Even the wrong haircut can lead to months of torture. For David, his differences could be life threatening. He's already been shipped from foster home to foster home, from school to school. When he gets in trouble at his most recent school, he prepares to start all over, again, somewhere else. This time though, the only thing that changes is the school. Amazingly, this time he might actually be okay. Sure, he's still not telling anybody about the hearing and the wings, but he's not getting beat up, either. And, he might actually have a girlfriend! <BR/><BR/>David accompanies his maybe girlfriend, Cheetah, to the Mayo clinic, and finds out some surprising information about himself. Along with a few creepy flashbacks. With this new information, David is going to have some very tough choices to make, and some harder lessons to learn. <BR/><BR/>I was expecting something completely different from this story, but I couldn't have been happier to be completely wrong! This story is incredibly touching and powerful, and honest. All of the characters are amazing and strong and realistic. The choices David makes may not be the ones you would make, but you feel the weight of them right along with him. And the lessons he learns are the simple but huge kind that everyone needs to be reminded of from time to time. It's a beautiful, simple, incredible thing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2008


    I read this book 2 years ago and I loved i going to read it again

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    Posted December 11, 2008

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    Posted September 11, 2009

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    Posted February 25, 2011

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    Posted October 27, 2010

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