Reviews /

War of the Wind

Authored by Victoria Williamson
Published by Neem Tree Press Limited

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War of the Wind by Victoria Williamson is an eco-thriller for ages 12+. The story centres around 14-year-old Max who has lost his hearing in a boating accident. Max lives with his family on a remote Scottish island, his father away for weeks at a time as he makes his living as a fisherman. As Max comes to terms with his deafness, strange things start to occur on the island. After new wind turbines are installed, local animals begin acting strangely and seemingly placid islanders are quick to anger. Could these changes in behaviour have anything to do with the turbines? Max and his new friends set out to uncover the mystery behind these strange happenings in their town, learning more about each other along the way.

This book offers wider representation of central characters – two who are deaf, one with down syndrome and one with cerebral palsy. In her acknowledgements, Williamson thanked the British Deaf Association for reviewing the book to ensure that the portrayal of deaf characters was sensitively represented. In fact, 20% of sales of this book have been donated to this association. Personally, I found it interesting to read how sign language ‘sounds’ when translated into printed text. With members of my own family who are deaf (who lip read and sign to communicate), it made me more aware of how they are processing language in our exchanges by the way characters’ conversations were recorded. I feel that both deaf characters, central to the story, were well-developed and sensitively portrayed.

I do not feel, however, that representation of the characters with down syndrome and cerebral palsy were as well-considered. The beginning of the novel focuses on how Max is settling back into school after his accident (in which he lost his hearing). I found it quite jarring to discover that the term ‘zoomer’ was used to refer to the additional needs class that Max was now part of in his secondary school. In the glossary provided at the back of the book, a ‘zoomer’ is defined as a Scottish dialect word meaning ‘someone who is a bit crazy, eccentric or a bit different’. I’m unsure how this labelling reinforces positive representation of marginalised groups. The contrast in description of this class (where the 4 main characters are educated) against the ‘mainstream’ kids’ experiences felt inappropriate. I personally feel that the novel created a feeling of otherness by ascribing these contrasting terms for different groups of pupils. There was an opportunity to bring the groups together in a more cohesive way in the middle of the novel, however the story quickly jumped from the tension between these two groups into solving the mystery of the turbines. As a reader, I was left wanting as there was only shallow resolution between groups which were clearly set apart from each other at the start of the novel. There was a missed opportunity here by Williamson which is a shame as the story is one which is potentially engaging for many readers.

Nominated for the Week Junior Award 2024