Harrington (Sure Signs of Crazy) again focuses on the young survivor of a horrific situation, crafting a compelling exploration of life after a disaster. The death of Wayne Kovok’s uncle, a soldier fighting overseas, feels like enough tragedy for the 12-year-old (previously seen in Courage for Beginners), but after he and his divorced mother survive a plane crash returning from the funeral, new challenges join his grief: the temporary loss of his voice and left eyebrow, replaced by facial bruises, stitches, and a large scar, as well as coping with his dictatorial grandfather, now living with Wayne and his mother. A self-described nerd, Wayne is obsessed with sharing random facts; his voicelessness forces him to rethink his identity and his relationships. Harrington deftly depicts the delicate dance of family and friends trying to handle the aftermath of near tragedy, their efforts further complicated once Wayne uncovers an important secret his grandfather is keeping. Wayne is an appealing protagonist with a strong voice who develops believably over the difficult months, as do the other characters. A well-done book on all levels. Ages 8–12. Agent: Julia Kenny, Dunow, Carlson & Lerner. (May)
Praise for Mayday:
* "A fine character-driven tale that slowly grows to a crescendo of satisfaction."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
* "Wayne is an appealing protagonist with a strong voice who develops believably over the difficult months, as do the other characters. A well-done book on all levels."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The main characters are well depicted and highly appealing.... Thought provoking and touching, Mayday applies to anyone who has ever felt like an outcast and wishes to become someone with a sense of pride."
"Wayne's is an authentic, funny, and sometimes sarcastic teen voice, which comes through clearly, even when he can't speak out loud.... in this sweet tale of survival, heroism, and the search for strength."
—School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Wayne Kovok is a descendant of Dalton war heroes from the Revolution to the present, as his grandpa reminds him constantly—though he also reminds Wayne that he is a Kovok, not a Dalton. His dad, the Flee, promises trips to concerts but shows up with T-shirts after he's gone by himself—if he shows up at all. Finally, there's Wayne's sort of girlfriend, who clearly thinks she can do much better. Wayne fights all this negativity with an encyclopedia of facts to plug into awkward silences. So when he and his mom survive a plane crash, following the burial of his Uncle Reed at Arlington, and Wayne loses his voice, communication with his family gets even harder. Wayne's is an authentic, funny, and sometimes sarcastic teen voice, which comes through clearly, even when he can't speak out loud. As the narrator, he is the fulcrum of the story, but other characters are defined, distinct, and developed. Family relationships are realistic, sometimes painfully so, as Wayne fights to find his own voice both figuratively and literally. The story is a bit long, with a few too many strands, all of which are resolved in the end, somewhat improbably. However, the positive aspects outweigh the few flaws in this sweet tale of survival, heroism, and the search for strength. VERDICT A solid purchase for middle graders looking for more realistic fiction.—Katherine Koenig, The Ellis School, PA
After surviving a plane crash, Wayne has plenty to cope with. He's lost his voice from an injury, his face is badly scarred, his drill-sergeant Grandpa has moved in, he's lost the flag that draped his uncle's coffin, the only reason his girlfriend hasn't dumped him is because she's sorry for him, and his father is an abusive loser. In sum, the white seventh-grader has to find a way to cope with the sudden disintegration of his world. In the past, he's been a veritable encyclopedia of random trivia, useful for "sealing up the cracks of awkward silences." Without a voice, the trivia doesn't work. Friends could help, but he has none until he discovers Denny, who's facing his bar mitzvah but suffers from a dreadful stutter—except when he sings—and, surprisingly, Grandpa, who, Wayne discovers, is slowly dying of cancer. Grandpa starts out as a near caricature of a ramrod-stiff career military man but gradually emerges to readers through Wayne's developing understanding as sensitive and deeply in tune with the boy's struggles. Wayne's convincing narration perceptively captures the tribulations of young teens, and even though his problems aren't commonplace, surprisingly, the resolutions are. Perhaps best of these is Grandpa's advice: "Before you go taking the bull by the horns, make sure it's your bull." A fine character-driven tale that slowly grows to a crescendo of satisfaction. (Fiction. 10-14)