Flying for Frankie
London, Faber, 2009, 230p
Reading this has proved to me that Pauline Fisk is a skilled novelist. Just a few days ago, I praised The Beast of Whixall Moss for its mystery and complexity. Flying for Frankie is completely different, and yet equally brilliant.
Charis and Frankie are very different girls - Frankie is loud and determined, and lives in a house that many of her neighbours call a castle; Charis, on the other hand, is quiet and modest. But somehow they become the best of friends. Unfortunately, Frankie is diagnosed with cancer, and the girls must face their worst fears.
The novel is written in the perspective of Charis, looking back on how they met. Fisk gets right under the skin of Charis, bringing her to life. Of course, she has other issues to deal with, alongside her friend's illness, including a challenging family life. But she comes across as strong and level-headed, in contrast to many other heroines in teenage fiction, who are stubborn and moody.
I'm not sure boys would find much to relate to in this particular story. They are male characters, like Charis' and Frankie's brothers, but they are always in the background - the emotional journey that Charis undertakes is the main element of the plot.
Fisk writes confidently, considering the delicacy of her subject. She sprinkles the novel with religion and spirituality, but does not drown the story with preaching. Charis' journey is not easy, but Fisk offers optimism and hope to both her characters and the reader.