A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bryan Bliss' novel We'll Fly Away is the story of Luke and Toby, two high school seniors trying to move beyond their neglectful and abusive family lives, only to find themselves making decisions that will end in tragedy. Best friends since childhood, they have big plans for the future. Luke has a wresting scholarship, and Toby plans to come along to study at the same university. But all those hopes are dashed when Luke is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The story unfolds in alternating chapters: Luke's letters from prison to Toby and a third-person account of the months that led up to the murders. Toby's world is often violent (a beating by his father is vividly related), and the details of several murders are noted rather than described. Both boys have first sexual encounters that are briefly glimpsed, and profanity is used often and casually ("f--k," "a--hole," "s--t," "goddamn," "hell"). This is a realistic, often grim story that may be tough for some readers, but the content opens wide a door for parents to have serious discussions with teens about life-altering choices.
What's the story?
WE'LL FLY AWAY is the dream of high school seniors and best friends Luke and Toby. They've even tried (but failed) to restore an old plane in the hope of making a daring escape from their troubled lives in a North Carolina town. Luke's mother has little interest in providing even the most basic necessities for him and his 5-year-old twin brothers, and Toby's father is an alcoholic petty criminal who routinely beats him. Their new escape plan revolves around the wrestling scholarship Luke has received. Toby will follow Luke to Iowa, although he has no idea how he'll pay for his tuition or where he'll live. As the story unfolds, each begins a first love relationship -- Luke with Annie, who does everything she can to support him and help out with the twins; and Toby with Lily, a woman in her 20s that he meets in a bar. Lily sets in motion the events that will end with Luke committing murder. The letters Luke writes to Toby from prison give readers a heartbreaking look at his life on Death Row. He writes of his feelings of isolation and emotional desolation, a friend named Eddie, who's scheduled for execution, a nun who assures him that everyone is capable of a transformation, and a lawyer who believes his sentence was an injustice and tells him that people are working to get him a new sentencing hearing. Readers must wait until the very end of the novel to find out who Luke murders and why he did it.
Is it any good?
A compelling, fast-paced, and gut-wrenching story about loyalty, abuse, first love, and revenge that comes to an unexpected and devastating conclusion. Many readers of We'll Fly Away may find their hearts going out to Luke and Toby, who face such tough odds simply trying to finish high school and begin new lives.
Parents and teens may want to talk about where to place accountability for the tragic events in the novel. How much are Luke and Toby to blame for the choices they make and how much of what happens to them might be the result of coming from abusive and neglectful families?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the choices characters make in We'll Fly Away. What impact do you think Luke and Toby's lives at home had on their decisions? Should any of their behavior be excused because they had an abusive or neglectful parent?
Luke is a high school senior when he's convicted of murder. Do you think someone his age should ever be sentenced to life in prison or sent to Death Row? Should a teen who commits a crime as terrible as murder ever be given a second chance?
What role do you think alcohol played in this story having a tragic end?
- Author: Bryan Bliss
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Greenwillow Books
- Publication date: May 8, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 408
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: February 4, 2020
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