Richardson tells all this with style -- The Wrong Hands is far better written than most novels for adults. His plot has many nice twists, and his prose sparkles, particularly in the scenes where Graham soars above London: "The chopper was still there, somewhere in the background, but I had got away, and now I laughed, laughing to the moon, which popped up on my left like a big white half-eaten peach with no visible means of support."
The Washington Post
This lush tale of magical realism is rendered all the more charming by the lively and, at times, mesmerizing Yorkshire accent conjured by theater-trained narrator Morton. Even his breathing seems tinged with a cockney sound. Morton easily animates 14-year-old Graham Sinclair a provincial kid with deformed hands and a secret, struggling to make sense of an increasingly hectic modern world. After saving a baby from a plane crash in London, Graham finds his life populated by various characters, some of them less than savory. Morton does an admirable job of impersonating them through Graham's offbeat perspective, though American ears may detect little difference between certain accents. Richardson's prose is soaring and Technicolor, peppered with youth slang, Briticisms and outlandish metaphor. But Morton doesn't let himself get carried away with the oft-wondrous language. Instead, he delivers a singular voice that's both grounded and free-floating, and may well resonate long after the tale has ended. Ages 13-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Combine the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "A Very Old Man With Wings" and the clueless narrative voice of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and the result may be something like this novel. Fourteen-year-old Graham Sinclair has more problems than just being a poor country boy from Yorkshire. He also has huge, ugly hands, a crazy mother, a simple mind, and a secret that keeps getting him in trouble. In despair, his parents send him to live for a while in London with his shady uncle, and he ends up saving a baby from a plane crash, becoming a national hero, the victim of an enterprising tabloid reporter, and then a suspect in several sexual assault cases. Spoiler alert: his secret is that his hands turn into wings and he can fly, which is how he saves the baby. It's also how he thinks he can prove that he is not the Popsock Perv, which in reality, will prove nothing of the kind and only make him a sideshow freak enriching an ambitious reporter. Fortunately, Graham's lack of artifice keeps him stumbling out of trouble (sort of like Mr. Magoo) and in the end, he is aided by a true and faithful friend who has her own weirdness issues. This is an interesting read, although sometimes the language, British and Yorkshire slang, is hard to understand. Readers can debate what the author is trying to say about how innocence leaves a person both vulnerable and protected and the acceptance of everyday wonders. KLIATT Codes: JSRecommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Random House, Knopf, 272p., Ages 12 to 18.
Children's Literature - Kathleen Isaacs
Embarrassed by his oversized and misshapen hands and hiding a personal secret, fourteen-year-old Graham Sinclair longs for someone to open up to. His first effort, to a classmate, ends in disaster, a label as a sexual predator, and exile to his uncle's in London. There an accidental heroic act attracts the attention of a beautiful woman. He tries to connect again, with even more disastrous results including newspaper descriptions of his supposed serial sexual predations which may be connected with his mother's attempted suicide. It is not until Graham realizes that his personal secret is a family secret, and, unlike his mother, determines to make it public and positive, that he can right the wrongness of his hands. Magical realism is combined with a heavy dose of teen angst in this unusual novel. Graham tells his own story, dwelling heavily on his feelings of awkwardness and isolation, his interest in beautiful women, his complete capitulation to the gorgeous Jennifer Slater who suddenly takes an interest in him, and his enjoyment in driving his uncle's car. Set in London and industrial Yorkshire, the English background is clear; the language has not been tempered for American readers who may be surprised by certain words ("cardy") but carried along by the story. Give this to 8th and 9th grade boys looking to connect themselves.
VOYA - Susan Allen
It is not easy to be different, especially for a fourteen-year-old boy. Graham Sinclair is very different because he has large, knobby, strange hands and because he has a deeply hidden secret. His mother tells him that it is better to be called Popsock Perv, Spakky, or Flipper than to let people learn his secret. His differences make people quick to think the worst of him when a young girl accuses him of assaulting her. As a result, Graham is sent to live with his uncle in London. He witnesses a terrible airplane crash and saves a baby from a burning building that had been hit by the plane. Jennifer Slater sees Graham save the baby, and wants to become his friend-Why? There are always many things going on, but explanations are given and the reader is dragged further into the mystery that is Graham Sinclair. This mixture of current-day technology and magical realism will remind the reader of David Almond's Skellig (Delacorte, 1999). The combination of thriller and fable makes for an interesting read. There are some British colloquialisms that might throw the reader for a moment, but they do not hinder the tale.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-British teen Graham Sinclair, 14, was born with large, strange hands that have folds between the fingers like the inside of a closed umbrella. He endures the accompanying shame and ridicule because he has an amazing secret: he can make his hands grow even more and then use them to fly. The one time he attempts to share this fact with someone, she thinks he's trying to molest her, and he pays dearly: he becomes a registered sex offender, and his already unstable mother descends further into mental illness. Needing a break, his parents send him to London to work for his manipulative Uncle George. The boy is less conspicuous there, until a plane crashes right in front of him, and he's hailed as a hero for rescuing a baby. Then he gets a cryptic e-mail from a woman who witnessed the rescue, which involved his flying. She demands an explanation. Can he trust this stranger with the truth? There's a lot of British slang but no glossary. This novel, with its elements of magical realism, is more introspective than action packed, and has an ambiguous ending. But, for those who like David Almond's novels or Kevin Brooks's works, particularly Kissing the Rain (Scholastic, 2004), it will be worth the read.-Sharon Rawlins, NJ Library for the Blind and Handicapped, Trenton Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Graham Sinclair has very odd hands. Exactly how they're different is vague, but the repercussions of having these "wrong" hands are not. He's called "Spakky" and "Perv" and his own dad ignores him while his mother develops her own issues around his rejection from the community. They send Graham to London to live with his uncle, whose supervision is somewhat spotty. When a plane crashes in the neighborhood, Graham's hands are the source of a miraculous, but secret rescue of a baby. Complications ensue when an observer, Jennifer Smith, appoints herself his handler and publicist. That she is a classy embodiment of all his fantasies about women blinds Graham to her manipulations. Feeling like a freak, self-absorbed and inhabiting his own version of the world leaves Jennifer's power over him unchecked until accusations of murder heighten the stakes. It's flight or face the music, and Graham's choices are as inevitable as they are surprising. A riveting psychological exploration of mutant powers grounded in the sad realities of everyday life. (Fiction. YA)
From the Publisher
“Part thriller, part fable, The Wrong Hands has elements of magic realism reminiscent of Skellig and a teenage narrator with the kind of ingénue voice that marked The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. . . . An intriguing read.”—The Sunday Telegraph (London)
“Hugely entertaining.”—The Independent (U.K.)
“Sharp and knowing and funny.”—The Sunday Times (U.K.)
From the Hardcover edition.