A spirited woman takes on piloting planes, helping soldiers, and breaking the glass ceiling in Salazar’s debut.
Audrey Coltrane has been obsessed with flying since she was a little girl. When an opportunity to train new Army recruits to fly begins in Hawaii, she takes the job. Unfortunately, this means Audrey is up in the air on Dec. 7, 1941, and finds herself involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath. Determined to continue flying and helping with the war effort, she becomes part of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, a group of women given the job of ferrying planes to various military bases. As Audrey makes her way through the worst of the war, she makes and loses friends, deals with her feelings for a faraway soldier, and learns what it is she actually wants out of life. Pulling from the real histories of WASP women, the book has an air of authenticity when Salazar describes the everyday ordeals of talented and hardworking women just trying to do their jobs in a harsh environment. The novel is incredibly earnest, and there are big ideas on every page, to the point that it detracts from the power of the book. The plot races along without any time to breathe, so characters appear and are killed without giving the reader any chance to get to know them or mourn them. Instead of focusing on one experience, the author attempts at least a reference to most major World War II events. Despite a section set in Hawaii, there are no major characters of color and only a brief mention of internment camps. There’s so much stuffed into the book that it ends up feeling like very little.
Though it has a lot of heart, this novel bites off more than it can chew.