book Review

Book Review: Flygirl

by Sherri L. Smith

flygirl   Summary:

Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her.

When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots—and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.

What I Liked About This Book:

  • What I really loved about this book–that I don’t usually care about–is that Flygirl has a fantastic and clear theme. The topics of racism and gender equality are present in Ida Mae’s everyday life. I have watched films and read other books about the separation between “Whites” and “Coloreds” during the early-to-mid 1900s and but none of those movies or novels really got to me like Flygirl.
  • I’m not much of a romance reader and I was really happy that Flygirl had minimum romance. Ida Mae Jones was much too busy worrying about being found out as a “colored” girl to think about love.
  • I love a good historical fiction read that can draw me in the story world (in this case, the USA during WWII from the point of view of a “Colored” girl). While reading Flygirl, I could tell that the author had done her research. From favorite musicians to mannerisms to precise descriptions of the war planes, this is a great example of a thoroughly-researched historical fiction novel for young adults. A must-read for all YA historical-fiction writers, particularly those with stories set in WWII.
  • The cover is fantastic. I know, I know this is supposed to be a review of the content but the cover really helped me imagine WHY Ida Mae was able to pass herself off as a white girl.
  • The character development was high-quality and Ida Mae had an authentic voice. Ida Mae is the sort of friend I’d love to have as she’s encouraging, friendly and willing to take risks to achieve her goals. While I was reading, I could just imagine her peering over my shoulder scrutinizing everything. ” ‘Anything a woman can do, a man can do?’ Ha!”

What Could Have Been Better:

  • The ending is really unsatisfactory. I felt like the author had a deadline to meet, so she rushed through the last fifteen pages and as a reader, I was displeased. I suppose the ending was supposed to be open, that anything could happen from there, but I felt rather cheated.

In Conclusion:

  • I adored Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith. After reading this novel, I had to check to see if this novel is Young Adult or Upper Middle Grade because the writing is complex and the characters are older but there is little romance and minimum violence (I know, strange for a novel set during WWII). In the end, I discovered that this is an upper YA novel but I was still able to relate to Ida Mae, even though she’s in the upper half of teenagedom. Therefore, I would recommend this novel to readers ages 12-16, especially those who are fond of relatable characters.

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