When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I found a novel in the YA section of our small town library that captivated me. The title was either I’ll Fly Away or Fly Away or Fly Away Home or something like that. (I’ve not been able to find it since; I have tried.) The star of the story (for me) was a pair of candy apple red cross-country skis that the narrator used to “fly away” through the woods to run errands or get a breath of freedom and solitude while she bided her time for the driver’s license that was within a year’s reach.

She was one of two teen sisters together trying to survive a high-control, emotionally and verbally abusive home.
She felt less strong and resilient than her younger sister, who used humor and outright will-power to resist the abuse. Skier sister felt weak and afraid. When it got unbearable, she would find a plausible excuse to run an errand into town. She’d strap on those candy apple red skis and fly away across the snow. It was a taste of the eventual freedom she hoped for.

Those skis are the reason why I requested my soap box derby car be painted candy apple red. I hadn’t built it; it was a hand-me-down modified for my widening hips. But at least I got it painted candy apple red. And someday, I would get my own skis, so I could fly away even faster through the woods that have always been a refuge.

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that public libraries save lives. They are shelters for body, mind, and spirit. Safe havens where those of us who may need them most can find alternative narratives, often more life-giving potential next chapters for our own stories. That’s why I’m going to start sharing some of my favorite books and recommendations here along with the occasional short essay or reflection.

What YA novel can you still remember because of the impact it made on your impressionable 12- or 13-year-old brain?

My cross country skis are navy now, not candy apple red. But they still give me that sense of freedom flying through the woods.