Author: Ryan Gattis
Publication Date: May 31 , 2016
I received a copy for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion in any way.
When 17-year-old Grey witnesses the tragic death of his mother in Colorado, he is shipped off to live with his aunt in inner-city Baltimore. Grey struggles to fit in to his new school and environment until his new friend, Akil, introduces him to the enigmatic Kurtis, the leader of a group that uses high-octane sports as a form of social activism. By challenging the police with death-defying stunts and then posting videos of them online, Kurtis, Grey, and their group become unlikely heroes in the fight against the prejudice that surrounds them.
As Kurtis takes Grey under his wing, they come up with a name, an insignia and attract more and more followers to their extreme acts. The lines between social activism and criminal behavior blur and their escalating stunts become a rallying point for the underprivileged and disenfranchised around the country, spreading like wildfire across the Internet. How far will Grey and Kurtis go to push their message, and can their fragile alliance withstand their growing power?
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“Art — real art, art from sorrow and pain — lets you into other people’s worlds. Good art makes you feel. Great art changes how you see the world. And it’s in that feeling, and it’s in that perspective, that we find that we’re not alone and we can keep going. Even under the worst of circumstances.”
AIR is a glimpse into the life of a teenage boy in the tumultuous aftermath of losing his mother to a violent death, perpetrated by his own father. In one day, he lost both parents and even though he and his father were estranged, the loss has profound effects on him. Air has a sense of realness and a raw feel to it and didn’t feel overly exaggerated.
It is gritty realism at its best, evoking raw emotions with the introduction of real issues facing black youths in present day society. It is however more than that; it is about finding a voice, a means of expressing oneself, a means to be free. It feels current and forces one to think outside the box.
Dealing with the issue of grief, Air gives us a peek into Grey’s life and the method he chooses to get out of his head and start living and feeling alive again. Rekindling his passion for BMX-ing and finding like-minded persons who aren’t afraid to push the envelope helps him to develop a sense of who he really is and what he wants to stand for, which is important being on the cusp of manhoood as he is. The lessons he learns from using extreme sports as his outlet and his expression of art, will help to shape him.
It is an emotional and at times heart-wrenching read and although I didn’t necessarily agree with the path Grey and his friends chose, I could understand the need to be free to express oneself through whatever medium best suited to that person. I empathised with Grey and loved the relationship with his aunt which lent rationality when he most needed it. I wasn’t able to really live in his head space or to understand his thought proceesses but that’s because I couldn’t fully identify with him from a female perspective. For that reason, my favourite character was Aunt Blue. Everybody needs an Aunt Blue.
Thought-provoking, raw, entertaining and illuminating, Air is an interesting, well written, and at times confrontational contemporary fiction with an urban realness, dealing with handling grief, the bonds of friendship and a common goal, and the use of extreme sports as an expression of art and self.
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