Recently I’ve been in a middle grade mood and when I saw Fly on the Wall I knew I had to request it. Ever since Pie in the Sky, I’ve been meaning to read a book by Remy Lai. Fly on the Wall is a precious illustrated middle grade about growing up and belonging. Keep reading this book review to see all the reasons I loved this middle grade.
Henry Khoo’s family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. His (former) best friend knows to expect his family’s mafia-style interrogation when Henry’s actually allowed to hang out at her house. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!
But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he’s on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Told in dairy style, Fly on the Wall is a charming and endearing middle grade about friendships and independence. Henry is tired of being treated like a baby in his family. You know what will show them all? If he takes a trip to his dad in Singapore by himself. But what starts off as an ambitious, but straightforward plan, ends up taking Henry on a journey of friendship and growth. The illustrations feel organically woven into the story as pieces of humor and endear the readers to Henry.
But what drew me to Fly on the Wall is how touching and relatable Henry’s struggles are. How many of us have never gone through a period in our life where we wanted to be treated more grown up? Where we felt like we didn’t belong? Trying to be someone we aren’t, just to fit in? Fly on the Wall explores issues of friendship fall outs, when you have history, but suddently everything changes and it leaves a hole in you. When you feel like you have to prove yourself so that your loved ones will see you for who you feel you are. Or the moments when you begin trying to be someone else, like a new outfit that doesn’t fit properly.
The lies and mistakes Henry has made catch up to him. Fly on the Wall becomes relatable not only for his insecurities, but his mistakes. It’s a touching middle grade that is perfect for younger readers going through their first friendship fall out, or feeling like you don’t belong. There are also fabulous conversations about parenting, specifically helicopter parenting, which I loved seeing on the page. Fly on the Wall is a story about growth. About change, confronting our mistakes, and family.