Flyaway is the story of a young girl named Isla who has a close relationship with her father; both of them are fascinated by the whooper swans that return to their area each winter. Isla and her father get up early one morning each year to greet the returning swans on a nearby lake where they migrate to spend the winter, but this winter, everything changes. The swans aren’t in their usual spot, and as Isla and her father run to follow the swans flying overhead, Isla’s dad collapses on the ground. When her father is admitted to the hospital, Isla feels like her world is falling apart.
Besides being worried about her dad, Isla is lonely and in need of a friend. Her best friend recently moved away, her older brother has his own friends, and her Granddad has been cranky and withdrawn since the death of her Grandma six years earlier. One day in the hospital, Isla meets Harry, a cute boy with bright red hair and a warm smile who doesn’t laugh at her fascination with the swans the way other kids at school do. But why is he in the hospital?
As the situation with her father gets worse and her friendship with Harry grows closer, Isla finds it hard to focus on her normal life and what is happening at school. She feels that if she can somehow continue the mission she started with her dad and find where the swans are wintering, somehow that will help her father. As her mother, brother, and granddad each struggle in their own way with what is happening in their family, Isla becomes more determined to find the swans, no matter what.
This is a warm and tender story about family and friendship. I liked Isla almost immediately and was rooting for her and for her dad. The family relationships in this novel are very realistically portrayed, and there is enough tension to keep the novel moving at a brisk pace but not so much as to be overwhelming for young readers. The story is about the scary things that happen in life and how we get through them…but it is also about love and hope.