“I don’t want ends. I want beginnings,” thinks Charlotte “Charlie” Steer when her single mother moves the two of them to a house in the country in Flightsend. After her mother’s recent delivery of a stillborn baby, Charlie reluctantly accepts the move to Flightsend, a fixer-upper that backs up to an abandoned World War II landing strip. But the 16-year-old can’t figure out why her mother would turn her back on her boyfriend Sean, the baby’s father and the only father Charlie has known for the last five years, especially when he’s eight years younger than her mother, attractive, funny and committed.
During the summer before Year 12, as Charlie finds her niche in the village as a waitress at a cultural retreat, she begins to understand relationships and the complicated forms and boundaries of love and friendship in this multilayered narrative. As she tries to rekindle the romance between Sean and her mother, she begins to wonder if her feelings for him as a stepfather have turned into a more mature love. Complicating her emotions are a young art teacher’s subtle yet inappropriate touches and encouragement when she decides to study art. Then there’s the German pilot who stealthily lands near Flightsend, knows the secret behind the hidden cross in the woods and stirs her mother out of her depression.
Newbery makes Charlie and her circle of loved ones the kind of people readers care about with her realistic yet quiet storytelling and vivid descriptions of their countryside environs. She gives the bright teen a new way to look at endings and lets her see that from loss comes healing, from goodbyes come new hellos and from a move comes a home.
Angela Leeper is a librarian at the University of Richmond.