In today’s KYD YA Championship post, Bec Kavanagh shows you why she believes Robin Klein’s teen tale Came Back to Show You I Could Fly should be the YA classic to take the KYDYAC crown.
Angie, Angela, Angel. The name that was an inspiration to Jagger in the seventies would for me become the heroine of a nineties book that has been my yardstick for great YA fiction ever since.
Robin Klein’s Came Back to Show You I Could Fly is so great that it barely needs introduction. Within hours of my borrowing a copy from the library to reread it for this post, two people saw it on my coffee table and picked it up, saying, ‘Oh, I loved this book! I need to read it again!’ Angie is the kind of character that stays with you, causing you years later to stumble into a bookshop mumbling ‘You know, that book about the girl with the tattoo on her shoulder…’ And there isn’t a bookseller who lived through the nineties who wouldn’t know what you meant.
For me, this rereading as an adult was no less powerful than my first encounter with the book as a lonely teenager, looking for adventures on the shelves in my local library. As a writer, this is the book I wish I’d penned; as a reader, it’s the one I’ll read again and again and never tire of – and as a teenager, it made me think that no matter how bad I felt, there might be some hope for the future. Angie is the ultimate damaged heroine – beautiful and fragile, but steely at the same time, and most importantly to Seymour, the impressionable young narrator, she’s the coolest person he’s ever met.
So many YA books rely on the thrill of first love, or the pull of forbidden romance to sink a hook into the reader’s heart and drag them along for the ride, but not this one. It doesn’t need to. Angie and Seymour are the perfect pairing. Through his eyes we see her fragile beauty and her magnetic energy. Seymour is young enough to believe in every hope Angie holds for her future: for him, she’s a hero. And yet, as he becomes caught up in her whirlwind of dreams and imaginings, Klein masterfully adds details of her devastating reality. The blurred shapes of her family sharpen, and their voices, their disappointment, their pain becomes impossible to ignore. Stepping back, we can see that Angie’s addiction is stripping the life from everything around her. It’s this drama, this oncoming train wreck that makes the book impossible to put down.
What makes the book extraordinary, though – despite my love of Angie and the fact that she’s the character who will summon you to these pages again and again – is Seymour. He is truly one of the unsung heroes of Australian YA. He’s not some dope blinded by love. Seymour knows what pain is; he knows what it is to be forgotten, ignored, bullied, trampled on, betrayed and rejected. But despite all this, despite the fact that it looks extremely likely that he’ll grow up surrounded by mediocrity, he still has hope that something amazing could happen. And in Came Back to Show You I Could Fly, it does.
There’s no doubt that Robin Klein is one of the Aussie greats, but in Angie and Seymour, she found two characters who are exceptional, whose lives would bring colour, excitement, drama and hope to generations of readers, including me and you. We both know it. If we’re talking about a local YA classic, Came Back to Show You I Could Fly is it.
Bec Kavanagh is a Melbourne based writer and reviewer and blogs here. She is the founder of A Thousand Words Festival, a festival celebrating books for young adults, and regularly visits classrooms to discuss her passion for YA literature. She is currently working on her first book and is much inspired by the great Australian stories she read as a teenager.
If you want Came Back To Show You I Could Fly to win the KYD YA Championship, you can cast your vote for it here! Vote now and you can also go into the draw to win some amazing prizes.