Iain Reading has an interesting concept: a heroine who is a Nancy Drew-type teen who can fly planes like Amelia Earhart and goes on Indiana Jones-type adventures. Unfortunately, Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold felt bloated and too much of an info dump to live up to its promise.
In this first of Kitty’s adventures, a summer trip to study humpback whales turns into a gold rush type adventure when Kitty stumbles upon a group of gold thieves who take her hostage and force her to help them transport the gold over the border. As they encounter adventures on the journey, Kitty comes to discover that her kidnappers may not be the bad guys after all.
It’s hard to pinpoint an audience for Kitty Hawk. The story and style feel very middle grade — the narrative is fairly simplistic and there’s never any real sense of danger. Even when Kitty encounters kidnappers and bears and strenuous physical labour, you know her spunk will get her through. However, the length and format of the story feel more YA / adult, and there just isn’t enough of a story to merit it.
The book’s biggest flaw for me was the massive info dumps that get inserted every few chapters. Kitty flies in search of humpback whales and we get a fully detailed run-through of her research plan. Kitty has dinner with a local family and we get an entire chapter about the gold rush. When Charlie (the leader of the kidnappers) tells Kitty a brief overview of something that happened in their past, Kitty and the other kidnappers complain that he needed to go into more detail (I disagreed), and so we get an entire chapter about events that happened in the 1800s that culminated in the story Charlie originally told. These digressions do often play a part in the larger story, but take far too long to tell, and sound like history lessons more than anything else. The format of the book doesn’t help — the small font and justified margins make the info dumps feel even more like a history textbook.
This book just felt long. I’m glad I finished it because the second half is more interesting than the first, but I also ended up skimming a lot. Kitty’s parallels to Nancy Drew are clear — she has Nancy’s red hair, spunk, and can-do attitude with practically any situation. But her story just isn’t as interesting.
Thank you to the publicist for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.