Leighton Barnes is starting her senior year of high school when the book begins. Unlike most seniors, Leighton doesn't see school as the end of summer, but more a refuge. For her, school means that her two little sisters are safe from their father for the next eight hours. Summer for Leighton was a nightmare, one she's ready to escape. My heart ached for Leighton. She is a strong character, one you root for right from the start. She doesn't back down from the abuse, instead she protects her sisters the best way she can. For Leighton, life is never normal. She can't date, she doesn't have many friends, and extracurriculars are a joke. But a lifeline is within reach. College means escape, but can she really leave her sisters?
While the plot centers around Leighton and her family, in the background are the crows. The crows become a magical element in the story. No one really knows why they show up or what they are doing in their small town. I love how the author ties the crows to Leighton's family. As her father's abuse heightens, more crows arrive. Little things like the house magically repairing itself and one crow that Leighton names after her late grandfather, all tie into the plot beautifully.
Despite the darker nature of this story, I really enjoyed If These Wings Could Fly. McCauley opens the door for discussion about domestic violence, shining a light on people who turn a blind eye to it. It's so easy to explain away a bruise or anxiety in a friend without really understanding what may be happening to them at home. Leighton's journey through this book is beautifully written (ironic, right?) and hooked me right from the beginning. I highly recommend this one to anyone that enjoys YA literary fiction.