A Book Review by Carlos Herbozo, West Orange Public Library Teen Book Reviewer
The Heartbeats of Wing Jones is Katherine Webber's first novel and an enjoyable read. Wing Jones is a biracial 15-year-old girl from Atlanta. Wing has always lived in the shadow of her older brother Marcus, who has college football scouts observing him play. She doesn't mind this because she is happy for Marcus and admires him. Wing is also romantically interested in Aaron, Marcus's best friend. Then one day, Marcus ends up in a coma, and everything changes for his family, which now has to live with the emotional repercussions. Wing refers to her two grandmothers as the "stalwart forces of my life", demonstrating how much she values family. Wing finds a new consolation in running, and her late night runs are guided by her visions of two animals: a dragon and lioness. These entities have sporadically led her to safety and success since she was little. The day comes when Wing is presented with an opportunity that would be a huge help for her family. She is aware of the necessity and gives it her all during her training.
As the narrator and main protagonist, Wing is an enlivening character. Webber incorporated the diversity of many cultures and also the interactions between them. Wing developed noticeably in this book and it could be due to the sensation of feeling free when she was running. I found Wing's description of how she felt while running at night to be extremely relatable. Wing is an observant narrator, many times analyzing her current situation and circumstances, and her narration starts off passive but eventually is so full of voice. I feel her maturity stands out the most when she is at school. Although the story ends rather abruptly, with many sub-plot threads being left unanswered by the author, a major plot of the story, which is the self-imposed discipline and sacrifices that Wing's family has to endure, is resolved. This is thanks to Wing's realization of running being a talent of hers.
Recommended for fans of realistic fiction and athleticism (especially runners).