The Chance to Fly
By Mandie Caroll,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Uplifting musical theater-themed story has charming lead.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Basic musical theater speak is sprinkled throughout (stage directions, marking, belt, head voice, headshot, book, blocking, etc.). Several popular Broadway musicals are referenced beyond Wicked and Hamilton.
You know yourself best; don't let anyone tell you what you are and are not capable of doing. Still, you may sometimes have to prove to others that your dreams are achievable. Disability isn't about limitations; with the right support system, limitations actually become opportunities for creative reinvention. When you do something that defies expectations, you pave the way for others to do the same.
Positive Role Models
Thirteen-year-old Nat is a funny, independent, and talented main character. Nat's new theater friends model how to be a good friend and ally to differently abled kids: Be chill, be accepting, be a friend. Nat's parents can be too overprotective, but they do grow as Nat's pushes for more independence. Disability and wheelchair use are represented realistically. Nat and her family are presumed White, Nat's friends are fairly diverse racially, don't adhere to gender stereotypes, and at least one is gay.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Light flirting. A central crush is consummated by a single, brief kiss.
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Products & Purchases
A variety of brands are mentioned, including Metamucil, NPR, Bluetooth, Google, Sam's Club, Oakley, Ray-Ban, Netflix, Star Wars, Kickstarter, Pinterest.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Chance to Fly, cowritten by Tony Award-winning Broadway star Ali Stroker and author Stacy Davidowitz, tells the story of musical theater-obsessed, wheelchair-using Nat Beacon. When 13-year-old Nat lands her first-ever role (in the ensemble) in a kid's production of her favorite musical, Wicked, she falls in with tight-knit group of cool theater kids. But when disaster threatens the production, can the show be saved and Nat, in her wheelchair, still be in it? A crush, some flirting, and one brief kiss, plus characters' older tween/younger teen ages, put this book's interest level in the 10 and up range, though there's no content concerns for younger readers. It's an obvious pick for the budding musical theater fan, though this story really does have wide appeal.
Where to Read
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What's the Story?
In THE CHANCE TO FLY, theater-obsessed Nat is the new girl in Saddle Stream, New Jersey, so she's thrilled when she lands a role in the ensemble for a kids' theater production of Wicked, one of her favorite musicals ever. Nat's not sure how it'll work with her wheelchair, but she's confident she can figure it out. Nat makes friends quickly with the cool cast members, and most are super chill about her wheelchair. When the choreographer excludes her from the dance numbers, her new friends help her prove that her wheelchair isn't a problem to be solved or ignored, but an opportunity to be more creative and more amazing. When a catastrophe threatens to ruin Wicked, can Nat find the courage to lead her friends as they fight to save the show that means so much to all of them?
Is It Any Good?
This fun, thoughtful coming-of-age novel may be musical-themed, but despite the allusions to Broadway musicals and theater-speak, it really does have wide reader appeal. The Chance to Fly artfully strings together several storylines. There's Nat, the new girl in town, and the rift growing between her and the best friend she left behind. There's Nat's wheelchair use, the welcome ordinariness of it, but also how being disabled complicates Nat's relationship with her parents, and the exhausting, ever-present need for her to prove (mostly to adults) that she can actually do the thing they think she can't, and the stinging disappointment when she can't. There is a sweet first crush, and flirting, and a first kiss. There's the fast and fierce bonding that happens between kids working on a project together, the happiness of dreams being lived, and the acute relief of finally being understood, accepted, and celebrated for who you are.
This is a story about what happens when kids fight for and get what they need to succeed. Any reader who's ever felt out of place or lost will find hope, and a great deal of joy, in this inspiring middle grades read.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the ways Nat's new theater friends are so "chill" about her wheelchair in The Chance to Fly. What do they do that helps her feel included? How do they support her when adults see her wheelchair as a limitation or problem?
How would you describe Nat's relationship with her parents? How do they grow as Nat grows up? How do family relationships change as kids get older?
How did having this story centered on musical theater, and Wicked in particular, work for you? Are you more or less interested in musicals now? Why?
- Authors: Ali Stroker, Stacy Davidowitz
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
- Publication date: April 13, 2021
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 288
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 27, 2021
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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