Summary: Working on an airship to support his mother and sisters after the death of his father, Matt is more at home in the air than he is on the ground. His part in the recovery of a hot air balloon and its passenger puts him in line for a promotion, but he is passed up in favor of a young man who has gone to airship school. Matt’s dedication to his ship never wavers though, but when a spirited passenger named Kate starts shaking up his life he struggles with having to choose between his beloved ship and his growing attraction to her. Their journey across the Pacificus will be the most memorable of their lives as they encounter pirates, typhoons, and a creature no one but them believes is real: the cloud cat.
Number of Pages: 322
Age Range: 13-14
Review: Airborn by Kenneth Oppel is epic adventure story. What I loved about Oppel’s writing is the fact that I could see the entire tale clearly in my head. From luxury airships to the desperate battle against villainous pirates to getting caught in a raging typhoon, I felt like I was watching the story visually unfold and it was breath-taking. I hope Oppel’s latest movie deal works out, because Airborn is made for the big screen.
I liked Matt as a character because of his strong sense of duty and his struggle to deal with the unexpected death of his father. What I found most compelling about him though was his connection to the Aurora, the airship he worked on. It is clear that being a cabin boy is not just a job for him, it’s his whole life as he has big dreams of working his way up to become captain and he cares about the ship itself. I loved the descriptions of the Aurora, and the fact Matt is devastated by even the thought of losing the ship. I also loved how it is the place where he still feels the spirit of his father.
The one problem I had with Airborn was Kate. While I understood her driven nature and the reasons why she had to prove herself, I didn’t find her to be very likeable because I felt her poor choices led to a lot of the scrapes she and Matt found themselves in. I suppose her impulsive, head-strong nature makes her a good match for Matt because she balances him out, but at times I found her irritating.
Overall though, Airborn was an engaging read that I ended up wishing I had more than a day to savour. I would recommend this book to early teen readers, but I also think it is an excellent choice for a read-aloud book with its detailed descriptions and action-packed plot.
“The main kitchen was on A-Deck, and the bakery directly below it on B-Deck. The fresh rolls and croissants came up piping hot in the dumb waiter, almost faster than we could serve them. Baz and Kristof were on duty with me in the first-class dining room. We’d worked together long enough so that you might have thought we were auditioning for the ballet. We swirled about one another as the ship sailed on, and the passengers ate and clinked glasses and ordered more Morning Glories at table nine and laughed at the sheer delight of having a meal six hundred feet in the air.” – Matt from Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, page 26
“I folded my arms across my chest and smiled. She would stop. When she realised I wasn’t about to rush after her, she would have second thoughts about pushing on into that forest alone. By this point she was getting quite far away, and showed no sign of faltering. She pushed through some thick fronds, and I lost sight of her altogether.
I started counting. By ten she’d be peeping out from behind the foliage to see if I was coming.
By twenty she hadn’t reappeared.
‘Bloody hell,’ I muttered, running to catch up.” – Matt from Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, page 124
“She was filing. I’d nipped outside to check on her, and I swear I could see the difference. Her worst sections, once saggy and torn, looked decidedly firmer now. It was like watching an old woman stand unexpectedly from a wheelchair. More than that, it was like watching her shed years before your eyes, until her skin was smooth and beautiful again. I just stood there for a few more minutes, staring. Her belly no longer rested so heavily on the ground. Work crews were repairing her lower rudder. Everyone was busy, making the ship whole again.” – Matt talking about the Aurora from Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, page 198
“‘That’s not fair,’ she said hotly. ‘You think I’m being selfish, don’t you. That I’m rich and you have nothing but choices. I’m a girl, and girls don’t get choices. No one’s going to give me a chance unless I force them to. It’s not just to be smart and curious. It’s just like you, being poor. You and I have to try harder and be better to get ahead. I have to have something amazing like this before they’ll pay attention to me.'” – Kate from Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, page 216
“But then, unexpectedly one night, I’d dreamed of my father – even though I was landlocked. I was flying alongside the Aurora, and he’d come and joined me, and when I woke up that morning, everything was different. As long as I could still dream about him, I knew everything would be all right. I didn’t need to be aloft to find happiness. It could find me wherever I was: on the Aurora, or here in Paris, or back home with Mom and Isabel and Sylvia.” – Matt from Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, page 319