About the Book

Title: Flygirl
Published: 2009
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Big Face, Pilot Edition
BFF Charm: Yay
Talky Talk: WASP
Bonus Factor: Trampling the Patriarchy
Relationship Status: Co-Pilot

Cover Story: Big Face, Pilot Edition

As far as Big Face covers go, this one is pretty nice–Ida Mae is looking stoic in her aviator gear, standing below a triangle of military planes overhead. I like that the model they chose does look like she could be a black girl passing as white, instead of whitewashing her completely.

The Deal:

It’s 1941, and the United States has just entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Ida Mae Jones has always dreamed of flying, but no one wants to give a black woman a license. (Even Bessie Coleman had to go to Paris to get hers.) When her older brother Charles enlists in the Army, she finds herself bereft of purpose…until the WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) puts out a call for female pilots. Suddenly, the light skin and “good hair” that have marked her as a bit of an outsider in her home could be an asset when it comes to getting into the sky. Can she pull off being a white woman in rural Texas, while the threat of war looms large?

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay BFF Charm

Ida Mae is definitely charm-worthy. It’s one thing to join the military when war breaks out, but to do so when the personal consequences are far more serious than anyone else realizes? That kind of courage is just what you’d want in a friend. She deals with the pain of hiding her family and leaving her hometown bestie behind as gracefully as anyone could, and is fiercely loyal to her fellow WASP.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Romance is ancillary to the plot, but Ida Mae’s burgeoning crush on and, later, a flirtation with her instructor (they only start flirting after he’s not her teacher anymore), are sweetly heady, and made me scream OH MY GOD JUST PUT YOUR FACE ON HIS FACE ALREADY.

Talky Talk: WASP

Although the main thrust of the story is more about flying than passing, Ida Mae’s deception is at the forefront of her thoughts, always. From having to take care to stay out of the sun, braid her hair and not get it wet, so it won’t kink up, to thinking about how to handle her (clearly black) mother’s appearance on the base (the solution is heartbreaking), at least a quarter of her brain is devoted to keeping up her charade, and what might happen if she doesn’t. This has the effect of making the times when she does get to fly even more freeing.

Ida Mae’s voice is straightforward and pulls no punches, though she often has a touch of poetry in her narration. I particularly loved this line: “I wish the army had taught us how to navigate feelings as easily as they did a starless night sky.”

Bonus Factor: Trampling the Patriarchy

A young woman in a pink hat hold sup a protest sign that reads "Smash the Patriarchy"

I love a good “infiltrating the old boys’ club” story, and true to the time, none of the men in the story are particularly pleased with women in their space. All of the women are subjected to casual, cruel tests and remarks; “you’re not worthy” is the underlying message, and Ida Mae gets it twice over. There is one particularly triumphant scene where the women show the boys that they’re made of sterner stuff, but even that is short-lived.

Relationship Status: Co-Pilot

Book, our date was full of thrills in the air and intrigue on the ground. You pulled me in with your promise of girl power and kept me hooked with your tale of a double life. With you as my co-pilot, the skies are looking pretty friendly.

FTC Full Disclosure: I checked out a copy from the library. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. Flygirl is available now.