Author: Iain Reading
Kitty Hawk is a young woman, just finished her A-levels, with a plan to fly to Alaska in her own plane and spend her summer studying whales.
I couldn’t say no to the premise of this, I love books with ‘young woman strike out alone to find her independence doing interesting things’ premise (For the ultimate example see the Lady Trent series), and, after a slightly shaky opening in which there’s a flashback within a flashback, Kitty Hawk really delivers on its premise.
We follow Kitty from the start of her adventure, trying to get sponsorship for her trip, and get to know her well, with some flashbacks to her childhood, some time with her parents and best friend and some old stories about her learning to fly. By the time we left for Alaska I knew and loved Kitty, from her adventurous spirit and resourcefulness through to her naiveté.
For the most part (I’ll get to the exception later) the book has an almost ‘Jolly Hockey Sticks’ vibe, by that I mean; everyone is nice to everyone, the people Kitty meets on her travels are all industrious and friendly, and everything in the book is treated with a raw enthusiasm, something as simple as a whale sighting from a fishing boat, is treated with the wonder of someone doing it for the first time (despite the fact Kitty is a veteran), and as a result the whole book is infused with this infectious passion. It’s a real classic adventure in that sense.
However, I felt the passion was taken down a peg or two since the book was quite under-edited. Not in the sense that there were typos (which incidentally I found none of) but in the sense that every scene was pulled on longer than necessary, lines were often repeated with the word order slightly changed (the moral of the story, that Greed is bad, was a particularly nasty culprit here) and while I appreciated the slow start to get to know our heroine, it’s quite frustrating when the ‘adventure’ finally starts and the characters sit down to tell a historical story that you’ve already heard from a different character.
Because you see, the adventure is not studying whales in Alaska, but smuggling gold across the Canadian border on foot. Yeah, I didn’t see it coming either. It was pretty fun though; the journey was intense and creative and linked the story back to an actual historical gold rush, so was certainly interesting from that perspective.
I would say, however, that it did cause the bit I hated most; i.e. the part where Kitty gets a bit of Stockholm syndrome. I can’t say too much about it without spoiling, but things get a bit weird for a while with Kitty helping out her… kidnappers… before the book gets back on track again.
So I have a few complaints, the pacing, and the singular bizarre character moment that did not mesh with anything or knew about Kitty, or the themes of the book as I understood them to be. However, if slow pacing doesn’t bother you, the book is worth a read, Kitty herself is powerful and interesting, the plot dances to the beat of its own drum and is interesting for it and, most important, the sense of adventure is infused through the book like amaretto in tiramisu.