Book Review: We Never Asked for Wings By Vanessa Diffenbaugh


By: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Published: August 18, 2015

Publisher: Ballantine Books


Diffenbaugh came into the book world with a highly successful debut novel, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, leaving readers anxiously waiting for her second novel. See my review, HERE.  In WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS, Diffenbaugh tackles the issue of illegal immigrants and their American-born children as well as single-parenthood. The novel begins with fifteen-year-old Alex realizing that their mother has left him and his six-year-old sister alone in their house to fend for themselves. Their mother, Letty, has left in the middle of the night, leaving behind a note stating she has gone to Mexico to try to convince her parents to come back to California. She is hoping her parents will come to their senses and return to the US to continue taking care of her and her two children like they have done for the last fifteen years. While Letty is in Mexico, Alex and Luna are struggling to feed and care for themselves. After an unfortunate accident that causes severe burns on Alex’s arm, he isn’t sure they are going to survive until their mom returns…if she returns. But, Letty does eventually return and she is left to figure out how to raise her children on her own, without her parents doing everything for her.

Of course, there are a lot of struggles, financial difficulties, and parenting mishaps, but Letty eventually starts to get the hang of living her life without the control and direction of her parents. I became extremely frustrated with Letty’s ignorance related to parenting, wondering where she had been for fifteen years. I had a difficult time grasping the idea that Letty didn’t know how to cook or care for her children at all. While Letty is adjusting to single parenthood, she becomes involved in a romantic triangle. Alex also has a romantic interest and even though their relationship is very sweet, it is a bit unrealistic.

Alex becomes curious about who his father is and begins to search for him. After stalking him for a few months, they officially meet. Their relationship picks up a bit too quickly and easily, even though this is where the storyline picks up. But, unfortunately, it is short-lived and I became bored with the characters again. This story was off-and-on for me. I would enjoy it and then something would happen and my frustration with the characters would make me disinterested. Then I would become interested several chapters later, only to revert back to frustration again. For the most part, it was a bit too superficial for the serious issues it raises related to children of illegal immigrants. There were a bit too many neat-and-tidy endings that left me rolling my eyes instead of rooting for the characters. The author does have a beautiful way of painting images with her words and igniting the senses with her descriptions of places, food and people.  Maybe I was expecting too much after such a compelling debut novel, but this one just didn’t quite meet my expectations.

Side Note: Although the cover is beautiful, I don’t really feel like it shows a true image of the story inside.

Favorite Quote: “‘I love it,’ Letty said, kissing Luna’s cherry lips and wondering how a half-eaten lollipop could somehow taste like a reason to stay.”

Vanessa Diffenbaugh – source, photo by Randy Tunnell

Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After graduating from Stanford University, she worked in the non-profit sector, teaching art and technology to youth in low-income communities. Following the success of her debut novel, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS she co-founded Camellia Network, a non-profit whose mission is to connect every youth aging out of foster care to the critical resources, opportunities, and support they need to thrive in adulthood. She currently lives in Monterey, CA, with her husband and four children. For more on Diffenbaugh, check out her website, HERE. You can also find her on Facebook, HERE, and Twitter, HERE

To purchase WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS, click the photo below:

To purchase a copy of THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, click the photo below:
Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this novel to me for the purpose of this review. This review is my honest opinion. I was not compensated in any way for this review. If you choose to purchase this book through the above link, I may receive a small commission without you having to pay a cent more for your purchase. Thanks for supporting reviews. 
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  1. Katherine Scott Jones on November 10, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    Appreciate this honest and thoughtful review. I too really liked Language of Flowers, but sounds like I can give this one a pass.

  2. Kate Unger on November 11, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    Good review. It's too bad you didn't enjoy this one very much. I need to check it out anyway because of how much I loved The Language of Flowers.

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