This novel, set in 1943, open with an unnamed narrator who has just been captured by the Nazis. She is writing her confession: to buy more time before her execution, she has agreed to tell her interrogators all the British military secrets she knows. However, she soon digresses into telling the story of Maddie, a working-class British girl who became a pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary. The narrator describes both Maddie’s work and her own in their early days of service to the British cause. She relates how they met and how they became best friends. As the narrator’s story progresses, a clearer picture emerges of why she has been imprisoned and what her ultimate fate will be.
This book is so good. It broke my heart – seriously, I was sobbing for the last 60 pages or so – but I absolutely loved it! Since this is a World War II story, I was expecting a certain amount of heartbreak. However, I was on the edge of my seat to find out what would happen to both the narrator and Maddie, because I honestly didn’t know. The book somehow manages to tell a jolly British adventure yarn without ever letting go of the intense emotional gravity of the WWII backdrop. It also reveals a wealth of interesting historical detail about the role of women in British air operations during the period; while it wasn’t a large role, Wein certainly makes the most of it here. I grew to love both of these girls and desperately wished the best for them, even though I knew it was unlikely. I would recommend this book to everyone; do not be deterred by the fact that it’s being marketed as YA! It is absolutely my top read of the year so far. LOVED it.