Wings, by Aprilynne Pike (Harper Collins, 2009, 290pp).
Homeschooling had suited Laurel just fine for the past ten years, and so had the tiny town up in the hills where she had grown up. Now her family's moved to a much larger town, and she's starting her sophomore year of high school. She's not surprised to find that the other kids dress differently and eat differently (Laurel is a vegan), but she does not initially realize just how different she is. Until she begins to blossom. Literally.
From her back, a winglike flower grows, and Laurel learns that she is a fairy. Soon she meets the incredibly attractive Tamani, a guardian of the boarder of the land beyond. And soon she and her new human friend David, whose calm, scientific mind helped her figure out what was happening to her, are embroiled in a battle to safeguard one of the last gates to fairyland, and the life of her human father.
This is one of the primeval plots-- a beautiful girl discovers she is someone magical and special, and that she has a true birthright beyond the realm of her mundane family. Add to this plot two cool and incredibly attractive boys vying for her attentions, and you end up with a book that has great appeal to many readers.
Pike brings enough unique elements and characters to the story to make it fresh--David, in particular, is a charmer (I'm rooting for him in the "who will Laurel end up with" sweepstakes), and I rather liked Laurel (although I think her emotional reaction to all the things that are happening could have been brought out a tad more). I enjoyed Pike's voice very much, most particularly when the story focused on small things of daily life, especially all the little things about Laurel that make her different, and I look forward to reading more of her books (this is her first).
But although I enjoyed Wings plenty as a light read, and I'll happily read the sequels (three more are planned), I'm not entirely hooked. I think this is because this first book only peripherally introduces us to the world of the fey, and the fairy element never became real enough to me to move it from plot device to embodiment of mystery and magic. I think I will also be more interested in the love triangle in future books--at the moment, one boy is "lust" and the other "like," and I hope that more nuance will come as the story progresses.
On the other hand, this would be an excellent book to give to girls who are asking for Twilight but are perhaps too young for it (it is very apt that the front jacket blurb--"A Remarkable Debut"--comes from Stephanie Meyer). Although Wings is being marketed as YA, it is clean as a whistle, and although there is violent conflict, it is not the rather disturbing conflict of many of the darker urban fantasies found in the YA section. If I were looking for books for an eleven or twelve year old girl, Wings would definitely be on my list.
Here's a smattering of other reviews: So Many Books, So Little Time, The Book Zombie, The Book Muncher, It's All About Books, Melissa's Bookshelf, The Story Siren, Green Bean Teen Queen.
And in the interest of full disclosure, my copy came from the publisher.