Over Christmas we visited London, and this is the book that I bought at Hatchards in London and the book I read while on the Tube, while sitting in the lobby at the Langham hotel, waiting for our table in Palm Court for a festive tea, while taking off at Heathrow and heading home. It means a lot to me already because of where it has been, without mention of the wonderful content of the story.
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine – and I will do anything, anything to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France – an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.
Author- Elizabeth Wein
Publication- May 2012
Genre- Young Adult Historical Fiction
SO. This book. This book was so dang beautiful. I think it was one of the best, most impactful novels I’ve read since The Hunger Games. It was intriguing and compelling and stunning and amazing and I could use so many other words to describe it, but I’m going to talk about the actual story now.
Once you get past the painful irony (wait until the end. you’ll see it), the violence (it is WWII), and the cruelty of the story in general, it really is art, dripping with beauty and truth. At the beginning, it was a little slow and unsatisfying and I was like, “Do I want to read this? Is this worth my time?” Yes. YES. READ IT. Just do it. The next third is certainly more well-paced; the last third is tense and quick and gripping.
Queenie/Julie/Verity – At first I didn’t like her. I was kinda wary, thinking that she was just a stupid girly coward. Nope. She’s not. After a little while, I really grew to like and understand her more. In some ways, I related to her more than I did with Maddie. She was a truly fantastic and inspiring character – brave and beautiful and strong and secretive. The reason I call her Queenie in this review isn’t exactly because that’s how I thought of her (In my mind, she is Julie). But if you’ve seen/read, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, she reminds me of Queenie (and that’s her nickname) and Maddie reminds me of Tina. Though Maddie and Julie are not sisters and not exactly similar to the Fantastic Beasts girls, Queenie and Tina definitely have some parallels to Julie and Maddie.
Maddie/ Kittyhawk – I always liked Maddie. Even at the end. In some ways, I didn’t really relate to her very much, but in other ways I did. She was quite a tomboy, a stellar pilot, and just an all-around likeable character. She doesn’t say curse words, she’s nice but capable and powerful, she feels envious sometimes of Queenie’s beauty but grows to love her in the best way possible – friendship.
Jamie – Jamie, Queenie’s brother wasn’t exactly a main character. But he was really sweet and I really liked him as a character (Maybe he’s a bit like Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts?) I loved that little scene with Maddie and Jamie’s reunion in France. Jamie was just a really sweet guy, though he didn’t always seem super plausible to me.
The writing was wonderful. The book was composed entirely of journal-type narratives and several letters. Because of this, you’d expect it to have a few gaps, but it flows together surprisingly well. In fact, it works heartbreakingly well. You get a sense of the girl’s character through the narratives, which were perfectly well-rounded.
-What I learned-
This book was really influential. I’d recommend it if you want something gripping and a little more serious and thoughtful. This story taught me a good bit, but some of the main things I got out of it were:
- War SUCKS. But it’s real. And terrible things happen all the time. What are you going to do about it? Like Maddie says on page 332, “Then I tell myself not to think about it. Then I tell myself I must think about it. It is REAL. It is happening NOW… What can I do – I can scarcely sleep, I just go around in circles all night trying to think what I can do.”
- The truth really is a dangerous thing. But it’s worth it. Page 266: “All I have done is buy myself time, the time to write this. I haven’t really told anyone anything of use. I’ve only told a story. But I have told the truth. Isn’t that ironic? They sent me here because I am so good at telling lies. But I have told the truth.”
- Bravery and heroic-ness isn’t always what you think. “Don’t know how I kept going. You just do. You have to, so you do.” – Page 381, Maddie.
- Lastly, friendship. It’s worth it. No matter what it gets you into. “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.” – Julie (Queenie, sorry.)
Sorry that was so long. It was just a fantastic book. I really recommend reading it, even though it is kinda heavy. If you’ve read it, let me know, so we can talk 😉
– The Adventuring Girl