Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Caroline B Cooney - Flight 116 Is Down

As I mentioned previously in my post, the first “Point Horror” book I am going to look at is “Flight 116 Is Down” by Caroline B Cooney who is one of the more prolific Point writers. Admittedly, “Flight 116” is not a Point Horror, but it is in the Point canon and being Cabin Crew myself, I was intrigued by this book.

And it was well worth it! A very engrossing and realistic read with interesting characters like Heidi: who feels trapped, Darienne: who cares for no-one but herself and Patrick, a young man who is waiting to prove himself.

Bizarrely, the plane crash whilst trapping many people in the wreckage frees many of our characters from their mundane routines or emotional difficulties. Patrick even acknowledges it by realizing that he wished for this to happen. Of course, none of the characters wanted a plane crash to happen, but they all wished for Something To Happen. Patrick's father backs this up later, realistically adding that because they are all Ambulance volunteers, if something does occur, there is a strong desire to Be There!

Heidi was freed from her exile because she found a purpose for a short while. The plane came in and Heidi was let out.

Patrick was freed as he finally had a chance to show he was also capable of dealing with an emergency and put his EMT skills to the test.

Daniel wished for something to happen to prevent his having to attend his father's wedding and actually considers a plane crash a useful diversion.

Ty was bored at the party and wished for some action.

Accuracy and Realism

The responses of the passengers after impact are realistic suggesting that Cooney has researched her book well. People may often say pointless things and do apparently pointless and useless things after a traumatic event. Post impact we can see both positive and negative responses to a crisis.

The reactions of the airport staff and the bewilderment of the waiting families when no information comes through is also accurate. Cooney doesn't spend an awful lot of time on this part of the story but what is written suffices to convey the agonising wait and shock of people in New York.

It is questionable over Patrick being an EMT at seventeen years of age. Brief research doesn't hold a definitive answer but it is a point of consideration. Patrick is later pushed away from the crash site as more experienced EMTs come on the scene. This is possibly an example of poor resource management, because even though Patrick is seventeen, he is an EMT and has valuable skills to offer.


Cooney uses a lot of foreshadowing and imagery to describe the plane crash before the event happens.

Early on, on page 34 we have examples of the environment to show us the plane crash . “Sharp, stabbing stems” of the trees, “misshapen circle” of the moon and the trees clanking in the wind are all suggestive of metal and the misshapen circle of the moon clearly represents what the circle of the aircraft fuselage will become after impact.

The wind attacks Heidi and Tally's legs and rips them with the cold and this represents what the plane will do to the environment when it lands.

Tally also has a feeling that something will happen as she remains close to Heidi with a need to protect her.

A macabre piece of foreshadowing comes with Teddies' bear which shows how Teddie will be post impact. We are told that the bear can be squashed into small spaces and when released his arms and legs spring out. Post crash, Teddie herself is found wedged in a small space, and her leg does spring out, as the broken bone protrudes through the skin.

Page 63 describes the former peacocks at Heidi's place as having “dying wails” and people would rush to the woods thinking a child was injured. Flight 116 crashes in the wood and the sound of people injured and dying mimic the idea of peacock “dying wail” calls.

Unanswered Questions

By the end of “Flight 116”, there are a few unanswered questions and the most interesting and debatable is probably the question of: does Heidi join the Ambulance? Obviously I, hope she does and hopefully you do too, but looking through the book, there are clues as to her future, albeit ambiguous.

Heidi's Future

Early in the book, Patrick's father states that the rich, upper class backgrounds are generally rescued, rather than being rescuers and that volunteers from this section of society are non-existent. Heidi's background would appear to be of this type, so historically Heidi would not volunteer.

From what Heidi's father says on the 'phone after the crash, we get an idea that Heidi may have been brought up to pride beauty and appearances over actions. There are mentions of slim ankles which would add weight to the appearance theory and possibly also that maybe Heidi's parents plans are for her to marry well, over a good career.

However, Heidi herself does help and tells her father that she felt useful during the emergency which would suggest that Heidi has got the bug for this type of work.

Heidi's relationship with reality up close also appear to have changed. Early in the book, we are told how she found the sheep “disgustingly close” which suggests at that time, a closeted reality. Sheep are alright but not too close. This potentially isn't a good sign as the crash is going to be up close and personal and not at all closeted. To be credit, Heidi does deal with the situation including the stark reality of body bags in the barn. Naturally, she probably isn't happy with this, but she does deal with the very real reality of Flight 116s' crash.

In “Flight 116”, Heidi has a particular dislike for two of the dogs – namely Winnie and Clemmie. At first, this seems like a pointless piece of characterization and almost completely heartless as Heidi believes Winnie and Clemmie to have worthless lives. However, this does hold a clue to Heidi's nature. She dislikes Winnie and Clemmie because they are “yippy” yet Heidi loves Tally-Ho because of her sensibility and usefulness. Looking at these three dogs as possible futures for Heidi – Winnie and Clemmie representing beauty and appearance and Tally representing practical and useful skills, we can see that Heidi prides usefulness over appearance and beauty and possibly considers a life based on appearance to be worthless.

Heidi and Patrick

There is also the unanswered question over Heidi and Patrick's relationship. We cannot know for sure, but it would be a fitting ending to the book for the couple to be together. It is interesting to consider how this will impact on Heidi's decision to join the Ambulance and vice versa.

Darienne – Does She Ever Get Her Just Desserts?

Again, this will always remain and unanswered question and it can be reasonably assumed that Darienne never changes. Throughout the book, she remains self centered, judgemental and superior. Although it is a documented fact that post-crisis people may focus on pointless things in this case blood on the antique rugs in Heidi's house, but given Darienne is constantly in her superior mode ie: judging the cardiologist' salary, planning to sue the airline for loss of her watch and never once showing the slightest piece of compassion for other – not allowing the fire fighters to use the phone – this behaviour is probably Darienne through and through.

At the beginning, the plane crash is a bizarre piece of wish fulfilment for many characters in the book, Darienne is one who does not get her wish fulfilled. She just wanted to get to London on time!

And In Conclusion...

Flight 116” is a well written and well researched book. Cooney does not shy away from the realistic details, yet does not go into excessive gore for shock factor. There are questions as to the accuracy of the legal age to be an EMT, but the accuracy in the rest of “Flight 116” suggests thorough research.

The characters are well thought out and although leaving unanswered questions is unsatisfactory, there are clues and suggestions as to the main characters future.

Foreshadowing is well used here and builds the drama. The crash is well described and brought in. The suddenness and not knowing what has happened is realistic. The book rapidly changes from scene setting and character development to one of action. Rescue and survival.

Although not at all in the Point Horror canon, I am glad I read this book and is one of the best books Caroline B Cooney has produced!


  1. First off, this book is okay; definitely not as good as she says it is. Secondly, there wasn’t as many “unanswered” questions, as well as foreshadowing. However, I do agree with the post about the accuracy of the book, although it doesn’t get into the true facts about Darienne. For example, such as how big of a b*tch, how stuck up she is, and how self-centered she is. It is also quite obvious that Heidi and Patrick like each other; however that doesn’t mean that Heidi will join the EMT. Either way, this book was an okay book, defiantly not the best. HL

  2. THE SPY READER........(AL)

    I like how this book left a lot of unanswered questions. It leaves room for readers opinions of what will happen next. I agree about what you mentioned about Heidi volunteering, I think Heidi will eventually join the EMT squad. As most people would see it, for the way Heidi lives, she would be stuck up and non-caring about the health and welfare of others injured during the crash, kind of like Darienne. However, she seemed to enjoy that field of work and seemed reliativly good at doing it, for someone who has never had one class on saving poeples lives. Overall, this was, as you said, one of the best books i've read by this author!

  3. I personally only believe this book was ok she might have given it a little more credit than it deserves but it was a pretty good read. To whether Patrick is a certified EMT is up for grabs but I believe that he is because I am in 8th grade and I'm going to a high school called ACIT(Atlantic County Institute of Technology) and I am going for a major called Health, Science, and Medicine in which year three we start to train to be an EMT and the nest year we get our EMT's license. I do believe that the book would have been a little better if Patrick and Heidi would have got into a relationship at the end because it would have lightened up the book and not made the plane crash so horrible and tragic. Mrs. Cooney's next book should be about the people's(Patrick, Heidi, Darieene etc.) lives after the crash and how the crash affected them.

  4. After reading "Flight 116 is Down" by Caroline B Cooney I've come to the conclusion that this book is one of the best that she has ever written.The whole horror scene was very realistic and keeped me engrossed in the book. The charaters were well described and the passage left a vivid picture in my head.I also thought that it was very ironic how it took such a drastic plane crash for Patraick and Heidi to develope feelings for each other.No one was expecting a plane crash but they were wishing for something out of the ordinary to happen that would distract them from their daily lives. The moral Be Careful What You Wish For suits this story very well.
    I agree that the book was fell researched and that Caroline took her time with this book,a nd i feel that the book was very intruiging

  5. Thank you for your comments :) I'm bringing this blog back to life soon.