Nafiza's Reviews > The Girl with Borrowed Wings

The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai  Rossetti
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Jul 18, 2012

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bookshelves: books-for-review, 2012
Read from June 23 to 26, 2012


I find myself, for the first time ever perhaps, struggling to properly organize my reaction to a book. So I am going to jump right in and hope that you follow me.

The first aspect of this novel that bothered me is the title. The Girl with Borrowed Wings. Maybe it just me being too picky and finicky but I feel that there’s a “the” missing there; the absence of which makes the title sound awkward and feel uncomfortably incorrect. It is probably me. I am no grammar queen.

The novel itself is a hotchpotch of contradictions and conflicts. Frenenqer is not an easy character to like or empathize with. In fact, I am of the opinion that I dislike her somewhat intensely but more on that later. The novel starts with a profound assertion of the main character’s existence being a result of a thought. Hm. I immediately thought (with no little delight) “She’s a Tulpa!” No, she’s not. This is just Fernie’s way of being all melodramatic. Her father who is a tyrant throughout the novel simply decided he would have a daughter. Really, maybe it’s just me but the strict rules that Fernie announces with utmost gravity that she lives under does not seem to be as big of a deal as she makes it out to be. She is not beaten. I mean, it is sucky that her father seems to want to rule her to the last strand of hair on her head but he doesn’t hit her, he doesn’t lock her into her room and he doesn’t put bars outside her window which would have been a good idea to portray her father’s tyranny. I have friends whose parents are more paranoid and perhaps just as controlling as Fernie’s dad is shown to be. Now you are going to counter that physical beating isn’t the only way to abuse a child and of course I know that. I do. But there have to be consequences for rebellious behavior in abusive parent/child relationships and here, apart from a stern face and disappointed sighs, there aren’t any. So if Fernie doesn’t love her parents as she asserts, why do the sighs and faces make any difference to her?

Another thing that bothered me about this novel was the gradual cohesion of an ideal beauty. In this case, it would be what Fernie looks like. The first clue given was that Fernie couldn’t go outside without men staring at her with varying degrees of lust. She refused to go outside in fact because she couldn’t handle it. And then later with the appearance of Sangris, there was mention, once and again, of how Fernie was obviously much better in her stick thin self, with her budding breasts and long coltish legs than those plump (fat) girls with doughy hips and you know, curves, ugh. Right? And Fernie, as smart as she was purported to be, going to a multicultural school as she was, couldn’t discern for herself that people come in different shapes and there is no one standard size for beauty. To make Fernie beautiful, everyone else (the more common sort of beauty in that part of the world, I guess) becomes ugly. What I don’t understand is why more people don’t look different because according to the novel, the school is full of expat kids from all around the world.

The multiculturalism provides a nice segue for my next point. There is a point in the novel when dearest Fernie wonders why people celebrate their culture. They are having a heritage day at their school, see, and since Fernie is a global creature with no one culture to belong to, she dislikes the fact that people place importance on their own cultures. This she shows by her less than enthusiastic “representation” of Thai culture and language with emphasis being placed on how none of the items were really “Thai” and the entire thing was, in fact, an amalgamation of products from different countries etc. I wonder how a Thai reader would react to this particular portion of the novel, I really do. Because let me tell you, I was somewhat insulted that diversity, instead of being celebrated, was being knocked. She could have celebrated all of her identities, not picked any one and said she belonged to all. There were so many other ways that this could have gone but no. It didn’t.

Fernie treats her best friend like a secretary. No, seriously, she does. It is horrible. She asks her stuff like “what classes do I have today? What am I doing tomorrow?” And the best friend obliges. Oh, she addresses this and excuses herself as saying that she is pushing her best friend to see how far she can go before she breaks. And that’s all good and great but don’t expect me to like you any more than I did which wasn’t very much. Similarly, her relationship with the winged boy is strange. She is so mean and horrible to him and he keeps on returning to her. Why? I certainly do not see what is so great about her. I really don’t. There are certain limits a MC cannot cross because to do so makes her less than a main character and more a person I’d like to squash under my thumb. She goes and crosses that line. And no, I’m sorry, I do not buy the justification. A well rounded main character would see the adversity, realize it and still find beauty. Fernie loathes the desert and she lets us know it over and over and over again. There’s not one single redeeming quality about the place she lives.

The romance is contrived. The existence of the winged boy is not discussed in any depth and we do not know if the world in which Fernie exists has other creatures like him because the ease with which she accepts this guy/cat/whatever suggests there is but it is not mentioned explicitly. There are barely any other characters worth mentioning and Fernie does have flecks of a Mary Sue in her. A lot of flecks. So I have written almost a thousand words on this book and come to the conclusion that I didn’t really like it.

However, I hesitate to write it off completely because as unlikable as Frenenqer is, as unbelievable and illogical the story is, it is still something different. The monsters in this novel all exist inside and it is an internal battle that colours liberty a different shade. So I would advise you to check this out yourself and make up your own mind. You may end up liking this more than I did and well, Sangris was the one redeeming point of the novel. I wish he had fallen in love with the best friend instead.
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Reading Progress

06/25 page 12
4.0% "The narrative voice is interesting."
06/26 page 52
17.0% "There's a whole lot of over-emoting, a whole lot of melodrama that doesn't go anywhere. Plus the MC treats her "best friend" as a secretary. Literally. Um. Not very impressed so far." 4 comments
05/19 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Maddeline You have no idea what it's like to live under the reign of abusive parents who don't actually leave marks. There's no evidence or proof. No bruise you can show someone else and have them believe you. And when you try to explain, your words fall down around you because how it's done, makes anyone hearing it think you're being over dramatic. Frenenqer is an emotionally abused child who still manages to fight back. "The gravity of it" doesn't seem that bad to you but you have to remember, she says herself, this is her whole world. There is nothing outside it. To her, her father is God. So yeah, the gravity of the situation is intense for her. The consequences are there. She's so programmed to believe her father is the end all, be all, that even a look wildly upsets her. I don't know why you can't understand this. It's all there in the book...

Now, onto the beauty part of it. The book doesn't have any underlying "oh, I'm the most beautiful girl but I don't know it but here's all the proof" thing. Believe me, I hate those. With passion. But this book didn't have it. The men lusting after her would have lusted after every young girl out and about. Probably even more so if they fit the ideal of their culture better than Frenenqer. And there were no snide remarks? The girls at her school tease her because she's different from their standard. And she does understand that in many parts of the world, how she looks like is appreciated more. She even says so. But she's been living in place where she's considered not the ideal since she was a kid until the book present. It didn't make everyone else ugly. That's ridiculous and it sounds a little like you're against girls liking their bodies? Sangris mentions that he bets Frenenqer is prettier but that's his own standard. Frenenqer knows she doesn't meet the standard of beauty where she lives and she just doesn't care.

The reason she doesn't like Heritage is clearly stated. Before Sangris, she thought it was boring. It only reminded her of all the places she'd rather be. How can you be enthusiastic about somewhere you used to live when all you have is three small boxes in a place you hate? It's completely understandable that she wouldn't be enthusiastic about Heritage. And after Sangris, it was only an extra reminder of things that would only make her sad. How is that bad???? It wasn't meant to snob on Thai culture. It's ridiculous to get mad about that at all and it's also ridiculous to demand that she like the cultures and feel connection to them. That just wasn't her character? Like, I don't know why you don't understand this?? And the whole reason why Sangris felt close to Frenenqer in the first place is because they both don't identify with a place or culture. They have no heritage. It's literally a main point of her character.

Now, on to her relationships. Again, another mark of what you didn't understand. Yes, she was a little mean to Anju though I wouldn't go as far as horrible. With Anju, she feels like she's the one in control. The only time in her life that she feels like she was in control. If Anju really didn't like it, she would have stopped being friends a long time ago. We understand this even more clearly when Anju shows how strong she is at the end. She was taking care of Frenenqer the entire time. It wasn't just her doggedly acting like a secretary. Anju honestly liked her and probably felt her odd behavior was a breath of fresh air in the very strict world she lived in. Even if Frenenqer got on her nerves, she still obviously cared about her. And here, yes, Frenenqer does make the mistake of taking her for granted but not every character can be perfect. Not every character -should- be perfect.

As for Sangris, her teasing is the closest she can come to affection. In fact, it is a form of affection. In fact, all of my friends and I tease each other and it is affection? She never actually meant all the things she said. Clearly?? Because it was...clearly teasing????? Even Sangris knows this. Though he does mention that she's 'mean' to him. But it's not like he didn't enjoy the teasing. He just also wanted realness from her which she couldn't give to him at the time. How is that bad???? It was a bad situation to have him in love with her and her not able to return his feelings but she overcame every emotional obstacle just for him??????? That is Romantic.
And he keeps coming back to her, because for the love of Pete, they're similar to each other. In ways a Free Person can never truly be with other people. Sure, other Free People could be similar but they also have that whole territorial thing going on. Finding a human girl he likes that is similar to him that he just fits with, well, those are the makings of love. Random chance and fitting with someone well.

I have no idea what you mean by the lines she crosses. What are you even talking about?? And it's not necessarily her surroundings that she hates. She hates her life. She's just a teenager. She has some kind of mental illness, probably depression, she's emotionally abused by her father and ignored by her mother, and the only times she could ever remember being happy were in places vastly different from where she lives now. And the place she lives now, her father chose because he'd be able to better control her there. So she lashes out at the scenery? So she feels like the desert is oppressive. Are you really going to argue that a mentally ill child is a terrible person because she doesn't like where she lives? Seriously??????

"we do not know if the world in which Fernie exists has other creatures like him because the ease with which she accepts this guy/cat/whatever suggests there is but it is not mentioned explicitly"

Okay, she freaks out when she sees him?? Clearly there aren't other creatures like him in the every day life of the book. She goes on a lot about how he doesn't fit and wonders what other people would do or think if they found out something as fantastic as Free People exist. I'm not sure how you possibly missed that but at this point, it seems like you're just trying to insult the book wherever you can.

The romance is not contrived. The romance is romantic and I'm a Romance Snob. And Frenenqer, I have no idea how you think she's a Mary Sue even in the tiniest bit. She's such an original character. Having a boy like you, doesn't make you a Mary Sue. It just doesn't??? And she clearly has flaws, like being mean to her friend, not being able to show real emotion towards Sangris, just like you pointed out. So where are the Mary Sue flecks? You say there's so many of them. Where?

And finally, I can agree with you. This is a unique book, unlike any other books. And yes, everyone should check out this book. Even if they missed out on the points entirely, it's still a beautifully written book and a great read.

Nafiza Wow, so thank you for writing all that. Unfortunately, I haven't got the time to read it. What I will say is that we are two different people and we both take different things away from the novel. There is no 'correct' way to read it and if my experience doesn't agree with your opinion of the book, it doesn't mean that my reading is not valid. Since you are so invested in the story, why don't you write a review of it and get people to read it based on the strength of your opinions? I really do not have the time to engage in a discourse with someone who has written an essay to tell me all the ways I am wrong.

Seriously, go write your own review or read another book. We'll all be happy.

Maddeline Says the person who wrote an essay on ridiculous reasons for not liking a book. But hey, you're right. We're too very different people. Not everyone can understand art and that's fine. I did write my own review. Have a nice life.

message 4: by Nafiza (last edited May 19, 2016 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nafiza The first thing about understanding art is understanding the subjective nature of its appeal. I am sorry that is something you find difficult to comprehend.

Also your snarky point about my review/essay, generally the essay is supposed to be in the review box. Comments are generally...comments. But ya know, each to their own. I wouldn't want to tell you how to define what you will. And I am not even going to touch the 'ridiculous reasons' remark because I try not to shout at mountains.

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