Anna and I both read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh years ago and we loved it. We Never Asked for Wings has some similar themes: pregnancy, motherhood, family, and honesty.
The book opens when Letty, a young and troubled mother of two, leaves her children alone to go to Mexico to find her parents. Her parents were living with her and taking care of her children, and she doesn’t know how to be a mother.
The story mostly alternates between Letty and her young teenage son, Alex. While Letty navigates motherhood, Alex navigates school and a budding relationship with a girl named Yesenia, all while caring for his six-year-old sister Luna and searching for the father he’s never known.
I mostly connected with Alex as a character, as his dreams and motivations felt real and true to character. He was a good and innocent character who happened to be in a bad situation. However, because the story did focus on him so much, the book tended to lean towards a more YA vibe.
I think Diffenbaugh did a good job with certain struggles of the Espinosa family, such as poverty and citizenship.
However, I struggled to connect with Letty. She was almost overly flawed, so much so that I disliked reading about her character. I was annoyed with all of her actions. She neglected her family and continued to make a string of bad decisions, including getting her son drunk. She had some almost-redeemable moments towards the end, but it wasn’t enough of a character arc for me.
My biggest problem with the book is that you can tell Diffenbaugh struggled to write the story. In the acknowledgments, Diffenbaugh says, “They say book two is hard. Whether or not this is true I don’t know, but I believed it to be true, and so this book was hard for me. Really hard.”
While I enjoyed the overall core of the story, as well as the motif of bird and feathers, parts of this book felt off. When Wes, Alex’s father, is finally introduced, he never feels like a round character. He, and his personality and motivations, just sort of hover in the story.
The events in the latter part of the book feel too melodramatic. While somewhat believable, Alex’s actions are a little too out of character. And after all the dramatic events at the end, it wraps up just a little too nicely.
VERDICT: 3 stars