McNamara (The Unbinding of Mary Reade, 2018) returns with a thrilling coming-of-age story featuring queer girls challenging societal conventions.
Sixteen-year-old Birdie Williams, a talented dancer, led a charmed life on Long Island until her father’s bank collapsed and he vanished with his beloved biplane. As the Great Depression continues, both Birdie’s would-be fiance, David, and her gorgeous best friend, Izzy, are distant, and her mother is forced to seek financial support from family in England. After spotting Dad’s plane on a flier for an aerial circus, Birdie leaves what’s left of her old life behind in hopes of reuniting with him and throws herself into performing as a wing walker to earn her keep. Yet what she comes to learn about Dad, and about herself, as she travels with the air circus is more complex than she expects. The third-person limited narrative alternates between Birdie’s past and present, effectively mapping out her internal growth over the course of the novel as she confronts her privileged upbringing and its concomitant blind spots—as well as her suppressed romantic feelings for Izzy and for June, a young pilot. Birdie and most other characters are assumed white aside from two male members of the air circus: dark-skinned Bennie from New Orleans and Milosh, who is Roma.
A thrilling, romantic adventure that captures the emotional tenor of an unstable period in American history. (Historical fiction. 12-18)