The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Forester
"The Girl Who Could Fly" is the story of Piper McCloud. Piper was born to a long-childless couple on a small family farm in Lowland County, Kansas. Soon after Piper's birth, her mother found Piper floating above her crib. By the time Piper was ten, Piper was straight-up flying. The flying, and her desire to show it off, is what gets her in trouble.
When she flies in front of an audience at the annual town picnic, she terrifies the locals, who are afraid of any behavior that is deemed by them to be strange or unusual. Piper also draws the attention of the people at what bills itself as a school for children with unusual abilities. Not too long after she gets settled in, and has made friends with most of the other children there, with the exception of Conrad, whose gift is his above-genius-level intelligence, she finds out that something else is going on.
The school she is attending exists to snuff out anything exceptional. It is the purpose of this organization to find any creature -- plant, animal, human being or single-celled creature -- that has extraordinary abilities and, one way or another, stop it from being exceptional.
We see this at work in the story of a girl named Bella Lovely. As the book opens, she is friendly and loving, but she has stopped using her ability. In fact, no one at school knows what it is, until nearly the end of her stay, when we find that she can change the reflective properties of objects to make them, effectively, change color. By the time the school is done with her, she not only can no longer do this, she cannot even remember that she ever was able to. The joy that she had previously shown is also gone. They want to accomplish this same goal with Piper, Conrad, and the other students. Conrad wants Piper to help him escape, but Piper refuses to go without the other kids.
What follows is lots of action. Piper tries to combat the ground that the school has gained already. There are also consequences for the actions Piper takes. But much of the interesting material in this part of the book is internal. We see more of what makes both Piper and Conrad tick and also find out the various kids's talents and, generally, how they got discovered and ended up at the school. We also eventually find out the history behind the motivations of the beautiful Leticia Hellion, director of the school.
Overall, this is either a very light, fluffy book with surprising moments of darkness, or a very dark book with surprising moments of lightness and fluffiness, depending on your perspective. The book starts out relatively lighthearted, with Piper's childhood and then turns darker when she is revealed to be a flier. Things seem to improve when she meets Dr. Hellion and goes to the school, but then she finds out what is really going on, and then things turn much darker. And once Dr. Hellion realizes that Piper knows what is going on, they get darker still. And yet throughout most of the book, Piper keeps her cheerful, helpful demeanor, which makes it still seem to be a lighthearted book.
I have read this book at least four times now and on each rereading, different things stick out at me, which probably contributes to this feeling of alternating between darkness and light. On one reading, Piper's intractable positivity will predominate, giving me a feeling that it is a cheerful book. On the next, the staggering evil of the villains will stand out more, making the book feel almost bleak in its outlook. I'm not sure whether this is an indication that the book is complex and multilayered or if it means that the book is uneven. I'm leaning more towards complex and multilayered, myself.