Defect by Will Weaver | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble


4.5 7
by Will Weaver

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Artful melding of fantastical elements in a realistic setting...Moreover, David and Cheetah are such empathetic characters and their relationship so palatable that the larger message about tolerance and self-acceptance will not be missed." —School Library Journal

“The eerie cover and enticing premise will draw readers in for a big payoff.”—Booklist

"Told with sensitivity and insight, this exploraiton of a young man's journety to self-acceptance seems particularly compelling in a world of extreme makeovers."—Kirkus Reviews

"Weaver . . . skillfully interweaves the improbable with twenty-first-century realities in this provocative novel."—VOYA

“Weaver’s message of acceptance of differences comes through loud and clear.”—The Horn Book

"A touching story that has a lot to say about whether we wear our bodies or they wear us."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Readers will have much to ponder." —IRA

"This book should prompt interesting and productive discussions about differences, identitity and tolerance with high school students."— The ALAN Review

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.
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.
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)

Product Details

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.78(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.87(d)
720L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt



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 knowabout 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.

Kael, whose father was a champion heavyweight wrestler at Valley View High not that many years ago (coaches still talk about him), straightens up his full five feet, four inches. "Hey, Stink, what's up?"

Laughter from Kael's crowd.

"It's fetal alcohol syndrome, you idiot," David says, "not 'feeble.' As in damage to the fetus. If anybody, you should know, midget." He's almost a foot taller than Kael, though he probably weighs the same.

Kael blinks several times. His pals look at one another; they're stuck on figuring out how David overheard them. David with his two hearing aids. "So, Stink, you read lips or something?" one of the clowns asks.

"Or something," David says.

Kael's neck seeps rusty red; he gets the fetal alcohol joke. He leans closer. "You know what, freak?" he says, his breath sugary rank from chewing tobacco. "Just for that I'm going to kick the crap out of you."

"You?" David says. "Or you and your feeble pals?"

"Just me. They can watch."

His gang laughs.

"Fair enough," David says. "Since you no doubt can beat me up, I should get to pick where and when—you know, like the dying prisoner's last request?"

Kael gets a blank, suspicious look; he glances, snakelike, to both sides without moving his head.

"Let him, Kael. Hey, why not?" his pals whisper.

Kael shrugs. "Okay."

"Tonight. Up on Barn Bluff, just after dark."

Kael squints.

"Unless you're afraid of heights."

"Not me, Stink."

"Middle of the bluff, north side, by the lookout over the river?"

"I know where it is. We'll be there, Crackhead. Just make sure you are."


At home at supper with the Trotwoods, his foster parents, David tries to act normal. So to speak.

"Everything all right at school today?" asks Mr. Trotwood as he passes the potatoes. Earl Trotwood has a square face with kindly blue eyes and thick farmer'shands—because he is a farmer. A hog farmer. David lives on a hog farm—a modern, industrial one with low, shiny barns off-limits to visitors, but a hog farm nonetheless. David, who grew up in New York City. (He reminds himself of this with regularity because he worries about forgetting. Forgetting the city. Forgetting his mother.) But the Trotwoods are nice people who don't pry into his personal life. They don't go through his things. He has set traps for them in his room—arranged pencils and papers just so, measured their spacing before and after—but it's clear that they don't come into his room. Not like other foster parents he has had.

When he was twelve years old, his mother sent him to Minnesota, where he would be "safe." (Safe from what? He liked New York City, its people, its neighborhoods, its smells, its food.) He first stayed with distant relatives in South Minneapolis. Really distant relatives. The parents, a biker couple, were hardly ever home, so David and his second cousins ate lots of stolen candy bars, plus pet food when they were really hungry. Canned cat food, especially Purina brand with "chicken bits," was not that bad. However, Social Services people caught up with the family, and all of the kids ended up in foster care. His mother wrote that she would come for him—but only when she got "stronger." "For now, anywhere in Minnesota is probably better than with me," she wrote. The Trotwoods, for reasons beyond David's brain, picked him out of a foster care listing of "Kids Who Wait" and brought him home.

"School? Pretty much okay," David replies. He shovels in another mouthful of food; this keeps him from having to talk.

Mr. and Mrs. Trotwood exchange a glance. In the silence, David's fork clinks loudly on his plate.

"Remember, David, the first year of high school is tough for everyone," Margaret Trotwood says. "Turning sixteen is not an easy time." She has an open face and warm blue eyes that have never looked on him with anything but kindness; he also knows that she talks to his high school counselor behind his back.

"I'll remember that, ma'am, thank you," he says, and finishes up.

After supper he tends to his homework at the dining room table, periodically checking his watch as the sun sinks lower. It's spring, April in Minnesota, and while the days are warmer, they are still short. "Darn!" he says suddenly.

"What is it, David?" Mr. Trotwood asks from his recliner.

"I forgot to do my history assignment."

"What kind of assignment?" Mrs. Trotwood asks.

"Some research on the Vietnam War," David answers.

"Can't you go online?" Mr. Trotwood asks. "You're welcome to use my office." Despite his flannel shirts and faded denim overalls, there are no flies on this hayseed: He has a souped-up Gateway computer in his office and multiple live feeds from fixed cams in his farrowing barn.If you want to watch pig birthing or track growth curves and feed budgets, Mr. Trotwood's office is the place to be.

"We're supposed to find an actual book—so we don't forget how, Mrs. Johnson says."

The Trotwoods look at each other; that makes sense to them. "I suppose you could drive to the public library in town," Mrs. Trotwood says. "You have your farm driving permit."

"It won't take long, I promise," David says, and gathers up his things.

"Be home by nine thirty!" she calls after him. "And remember your shower tonight. Hygiene is important for growing young men."

"Yes, ma'am," he says. All his foster parents found some way to comment on his body odor, a unique scent that clung to him, resistant to all soaps and hot water. Beyond being able to drive at fifteen, the only other possible benefit to living on a hog farm was that it sometimes masked his smell. But not to Mrs. Trotwood.

"Call us if you have trouble of any kind," she hollers.

"Thank you. I will," he calls back. He feels bad lying to the Trotwoods about his evening plans, but only briefly. It's almost like they're asking for it.

Copyright © 2007 by Will Weaver

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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Defect 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Gwertilyn More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
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.

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!

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.

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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book 2 years ago and I loved i going to read it again