As the Crow Flies was on several reading lists, award lists and being promoted for a while. I decided maybe I would investigate it after I noticed a couple schools had ordered it. When I noticed the price, I was “Um…okay, this is a library book.” However, it is worth the price of the book, if you decide it is after reading it from a library.
You see, this graphic novel by Melanie Gillman is not … well it is a story that goes from point A to B to C, but then jumps to E, F, H and stops around J. I felt as if I was supposed to know who the main character was before I even started the book. Who is this person? Why are they here? What kind of camp is this? And why in the world would a girl with a bird allergy go to an outdoor camp? (That is a side story that stuck with me due to the fact our main character finds a feather that plays a small, but supposedly important, plot point.)
Charlie Lamonte is a queer, black girl at an all-girls Christian camp. She is going to learn a bit about herself and others. And find perhaps a bit of understanding about God. It has an unusual but fitting ending. You see, the girls of the camp are the typical girls: the mean girl, the minion, the oddballs, the transgender girl. Surprise! She is trans! No hints, just a joking comment about one girl to Charlie about herself. While I like a “no big deal” introduction, it was a bit tossed out at you.
There is no action so much as there are things they do: the girls talk, hike, get water, Charlie starts her period, the girls swim, they eat tacos while on the hike. There is a story about the women who started the tradition of the hike and therefore the camp. And it is not so much as a GOD IS GOOD storyline, but more of a spiritual God is Good (little less “in your face”) storyline. Yet, no question. God is there and he is mentioned. Often. It is up to you the reader to decide if the counselors are hearing what they are saying (yes, they were close as “sisters”) and if this is a Christian book or a “Hey, we are making our queer girl power message with a spiritual base” book.
If anything saves this book from being a complete flop for me is Gillman’s illustrations. They are simple, but far from simplistic. They are not overly bright, but not dull. They move the story along and are both fanciful and practical.
Now, if you read this book and decide to get a copy, I think it is worth it. I just do not think it is something I would want in my forever library. I do think that it would be a good one for a library that does not mind Christian overtones in a book. I would like to think that while it is an open ending, that Charlie can keep their faith and find peace with perhaps a different approach to religion but able to keep a little of what she had. I am not a religious person, but I think that it was core to who Charlie was (and is) and I would hate for her to lose all of that as she learns and grows into an adult.