Book Review: Hope Is Our Only Wing by Rutendo Tavengerwei

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 216 pages

Published: Spetember 10, 2019

Publisher: Soho Teen

Genre: Young Adult, Fiction & Literature, Contempoary

Synopsis: 

For fifteen-year-old Shamiso, struggling with grief and bewilderment following her father’s death, hope is nothing but a leap into darkness.

For Tanyaradzwa, whose life has been turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis, hope is the only reason to keep fighting.

As the two of them form an unlikely friendship, Shamiso begins to confront her terrible fear of loss. In getting close to another person, particularly someone who’s ill, isn’t she just opening herself up to more pain? And underpinning it all – what did happen to her father, the night of that strange and implausible car crash?

Rutendo Tavengerwei’s extraordinary debut takes an honest look at hope, and the grit and courage it can take to hang on to it.


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Shamiso is struggling with the recent death of her father. Shamiso and her mother, unable to return to the UK due to their lack of proper immigration papers, must stay in Zimbabwe, a painful prospect to Shamiso. She cannot imagine not only leaving her friends behind in Slough but also staying in a country that may have murdered her father. But against her objections, Shamiso is sent to boarding school where she encounters a girl in her class, Tanyaradzwa, who has recently had her life turned upside down with a cancer diagnosis. Shamiso is not looking for a new friendship. She is still reeling from the recent abandonment of her hometown friends. However, Tanya’s persistence and uplifting spirit remind Shamiso what her father’s journalism did for the people of Zimbabwe and what Shamiso can take to heart: with the hope you can find the light within the darkness.

I found this one to be an interesting read, in a way that it is one of the most insightful YA novels I have ever read. And I think that is why I liked this one. It didn’t involve the generic formula you commonly see in YA literature. This compelling story deals with some hefty themes: grief, loss, illness poverty, government corruption and political assassination. The challenges that both Shamiso and Tanya face may not be what every teen face, however, that doesn’t make this story less real. In a thought-provoking way, the author conveys the emotional impact the characters had to face. Oddly enough, the emotion and pain lept off the pages.

I heard about the political and economic turmoil that occurred in Zimbabwe but I don’t think I truly understood the situation until I read this book. The nonlinear storytelling may deter some readers, however, this is a novel that doesn’t spell out everything to the reader. It is a book that requires the reader to think for themselves and make their own conclusions. But most importantly, the author conveys a message of hope and determination can persevere through the darker days. That is a message we could all use right now. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer.

Realistic, with a sense of hope and perseverance, this is one impressive and insightful debut from Rutendo Tavengerwei. We should look forward to future stories from her.

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I received an advanced copy from NetGalley and Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

Get it At: Amazon |Barnes & Noble|Book Depository|IndieBound| Your local library

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