Family matters, but Myra’s—an older, pregnant sister, four younger rambunctious brothers, and a pair of overworked parents—is so needy that she appears to be on track for martyr of the year. The problem with that is that Myra isn’t taking care of herself or her own dreams while she goes to school, works at a lousy job, baby-sits all four brothers, makes dinners, and watches over her depressed sister who is ill with pregnancy complications. If anyone has ever known that she’s stuck, Myra is that girl.
Adding to Myra’s misery is that her Prince Charming boyfriend, Erik, has dumped her for another girl. She feels hopeless until her biology teacher announces a competition through which two students will win grants to go to the Galapagos Islands to study for two months. The problem is that the winners must each provide one thousand dollars of their own money toward the trip. Myra is determined to earn the money and take the Saturday classes to prepare to write her proposal. But Erik, who is also competing for the prize, thinks that Myra isn’t smart enough to compete. His parents are affluent, and he doesn’t have to worry about the money to apply. He happily sabotages Myra at any chance he gets.
Myra becomes interested in the flightless cormorant (a bird known only to the Galapagos). She sees herself as a sort of flightless bird, someone unable to escape her small Utah community to learn about the larger world. But her Saturday teacher, graduate student Pete Tree, is helping her understand just how remarkable she is. Myra begins to transform her study of birds and the Galapagos into fairytale format (complete with pirates and a scullery maid) for her younger brothers’ bedtime stories.
Anyone interested in the environment or in the life sciences will love this quick novel, but—remarkably—the reader doesn’t have to know anything about the Galapagos or have background in science to enjoy this book. The information is so perfectly woven into the story that just becomes part of Myra’s life and never comes off as didactic, as if the author’s trying to make this into a science lesson. It appeals to anyone who has to sacrifice for family and yet still yearns for dreams of his or her own. It also does a great job of looking at romantic relationships, the pain and heartache of break ups, the aching desire to get back together, and the need to move beyond the pain to recognize the more important center of a person’s life—his or her own creative and intellectual potential.
Girls Don’t Fly is a quick read with wide appeal. I recommend it to all teens.