BOOK REPORT for Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Cover Story: High in the Sky

BFF Charm: Yay x 2

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

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Talky Talk: The Adventures of Black Dove and White Raven

Bonus Factors: Ethiopian History, Pilots

Relationship Status: Love You Like a Brother

 Black Dove, White Raven

Cover Story: High in the Sky

The cover is perfect for this book: it gets all the major themes across (flying, desertlike country, historical feel) while still simple and striking.

The Deal:

Emilia and Teo have been raised like brother and sister, the children of two daredevil stunt pilots in 1930s America. The barnstorming Black Dove and White Raven duo tour America with Em and Teo, until one day, Teo’s mother Delia suffers a fatal accident.

It had been Delia’s dream to take Teo to Ethiopia, the birthplace of his father, and one of the few places she could think of that wouldn’t bat an eye at raising a black son and white daughter together. After Delia’s death, Em’s mother Rhoda takes them across the world to live out Delia’s dream. However, the timing couldn’t be worse: Ethiopia and Italy are at odds with each other, and the promise of war threatens to shatter their little family.

Black Dove, White Raven explores the bonds of friendship, family, nationality, and the horrors of war, juxtaposed with the joy of flying and finding a new home.

BFF Charm: Yay x 2

Em and Teo both deserve a BFF charm. In the adventure stories they make up for each other, Em is the fearless and showy White Raven, while Teo is the subdued Black Dove, content with his powers of invisibility. This echoes their real personalities: Em is brash while Teo is nurturing. They are both fiercely loyal, brave, and mature beyond their years—but in their adventure stories, they still retain a charming naiveté that reminds you just how young they are. You can’t help but fall in love with them.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

Given the plot, it should come as no surprise that there isn’t any romance in this book—and it doesn’t need any.

Talky Talk: The Adventures of Black Dove and White Raven

Like Code Name Verity, this book is a compilation of writings from Teo and Em, including their flight logs, diary entries, essays they wrote for school, and their dramatic stories of the (fictional) Black Dove and White Raven. Elizabeth Wein is exactly the right author for this: in lesser hands, it might seem contrived, but Wein expertly conveys a sense of time, place, and multi-dimensional personalities without pushing the boundaries of how her narrative is set up.

The single less-than-glowing comment I could offer is that the book slows its pace from about 20% though the halfway mark, when the stakes are suddenly raised. Once it does, however, I was completely captivated. (The halfway point was the source of several “SHIT JUST GOT REAL” texts to my BFF, who recently read Code Name Verity and loved it, but will never forgive me for merely saying, “it’s a book about best friends!”)

Bonus Factor: Ethiopian History

As you probably already know, Wein writes fantastic historical fiction, and one thing I appreciate is her Author’s Note at the end, which describes where she took liberties and what actually happened. Not only was I not particularly familiar with the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia, but setting the story in Ethiopia was refreshingly different from most historical fiction I’ve read. Wein’s meticulously researched setting made me long for even more YA historical fiction, a subgenre that feels underserved.

Bonus Factor: Pilots

Just like Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, this book heavily features flying. Em and Teo actually learn to fly in this book, as opposed to Verity and Maddie already being skilled pilots by the time we meet them. Their joy and fear is palpable—and enough to make me want to take some flying lessons myself.

Casting Call:

Michael B. Jordan as Teo

Back when Jordan was on All My Children (come to think of it, he was playing the adopted son of a white family there, too), he had the presence and baby face that I pictured for Teo.

Odeya Rush as Emilia

Josephine Baker as Delia

I know she’s long gone, but I couldn’t help but picture Baker any time Delia was described.

Relationship Status: Love You Like a Brother

Book, you were intense, compelling, and full of adventure. I don’t want to date you so much as adopt you into my family.

Black Dove, White Raven will be available on March 31.

Jennie lives in San Francisco. When she's not reading or talking about reading, she cooks obsessively, runs a small jewelry business, thrifts for vintage everything, and practices law.