Book Review: The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold

The Year I Flew Away

Author: Marie Arnold

Publication Date: 02 February 2021

Genre: Middle Grade – Fantasy (magical realism)

Pages: 256

Publisher: HMH Kids

In this magical middle-grade novel, ten-year-old Gabrielle finds out that America isn’t the perfect place she imagined when she moves from Haiti to Brooklyn. With the help of a clever witch, Gabrielle becomes the perfect American — but will she lose herself in the process? Perfect for fans of HURRICANE CHILD and FRONT DESK.

It’s 1985 and ten-year-old Gabrielle is excited to be moving from Haiti to America. Unfortunately, her parents won’t be able to join her yet and she’ll be living in a place called Brooklyn, New York, with relatives she has never met. She promises her parents that she will behave, but life proves to be difficult in the United States, from learning the language to always feeling like she doesn’t fit in to being bullied. So when a witch offers her a chance to speak English perfectly and be “American,” she makes the deal. But soon she realizes how much she has given up by trying to fit in and, along with her two new friends (one of them a talking rat), takes on the witch in an epic battle to try to reverse the spell. 

Gabrielle is a funny and engaging heroine you won’t soon forget in this sweet and lyrical novel that’s perfect for fans of Hurricane Child and Front Desk.

Oh my goodness. This should be a must read for all young readers! It is so perfectly makes you consider the age old cliché of be careful what you wish for.

10 year old Gabrielle can’t wait to move to America from Haiti. She will finally be in a country where money and food flow freely and school is actually free. It’s the land of riches and opportunity. 

When Gabrielle moves to Brooklyn to live with her Uncle’s family, American life is far less glorious that what she envisioned. All she wants is to make friends at her new school, but with Haitian Creole as her first language and the other kids speaking English WAY too fast, she’s the new outcast that everyone decides to pick on. 

Gabrielle realizes she can change her luck when she meets a witch who can grant her three wishes…the price? Something unimportant. 

Gabrielle is such an incredible character. She’s passionate and enthusiastic about creating a new life filled with opportunities. Gabrielle also reminds us of the dangers of wanting to erase our otherness in order to “fit in” with everyone else. 

Even though this book hits on some incredibly tough topics especially when it comes to the hardships and discrimination that immigrants face, there are definitely moments of joy and levity. 

Also, Rocky, the talking rat who is trying so hard to be a rabbit is probably one of the funniest animal characters that I’ve ever come across. I mean, he literally tries to box Gabrielle after she accidentally squashes his home upon meeting him. 

Overall, if you’re looking for a heartwarming coming of age story that is sprinkled with a bit of magic, definitely pick this one up!

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