It's 1952, and Clementine admires her cousin Fan more than anyone else does in the world. Fan is beautiful and free spirited, the complete opposite of Clementine who is cautious and worries about everything. Clementine and Fan don't get to see each other very often though, Clementine lives in the city and Fan lives far, far way in the country. On the first visit Clementine can remember, she realizes while Fan might seem happy and free, her life is far from ideal.
Back at home, Clementine has her own life and problems to deal with, and although she writes to Fan at first, Fan never writes back. Clementine doesn't really hear anything about Fan again until her aunt writes to say that Fan is married, at 15, with a baby on the way.
So this was sad. Fan was so sure she wasn't going to end up like her mother, and then she does. And then it ends even worse for her than it did for her mother. The perspective switches between Fan and Clementine, but we're with Clementine for most of the time, who has both her parents and is sent to a good school and goes to university. Their lives make such a contrast for each other. While Clementine grows up with two supportive parents and goes through the everyday pains of growing up, Fan grows up with a mother who is both physically and verbally abusive and ends up with two children and alone by the time she's 17.
Gigantic spoiler approaching! Stop reading now if you don't want to know what happens (although you can probably guess). Fan ends up killing herself. She convinces herself that as long as her children are with her, they'll never get ahead. They'll be doomed to repeat what she herself has repeated. She swore she would never lift a hand against her children and when she grabs her son in anger, she realizes that she could end up even more like her mother and she can't stand the thought. As sad as this was, it seemed like a fairly realistic exploration of what people with suicidal thoughts might believe. That there is no help anywhere, and everyone would be better off without them, and if only they were gone, everyone would be happier.
While this book was written on a level that upper middle school could read, I would recommend it for high school because of the subject matter.
The Winds of Heaven came out on September 28th.