Little, Brown. Mar. 2023. 400p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316591249.
Gr 6 Up–Wein’s latest historical fiction entry displays a wonderful understanding of both the complexity of the interwar years in Europe and the complicated motivations of the human condition. Stella is a young pilot selected to represent Britain in Europe’s first air race for young people, an effort to promote peace amid lingering resentments, the ongoing Spanish Civil War, and the rise of Nazism. She is the lone female pilot and must continually prove her skill as an aviator and her ability to navigate treacherous social situations under the ever-present newspaper camera lens. Set in August 1937, when most Europeans liked to believe that peace between nations was still possible, hopes for a friendly air race to inspire national camaraderie are shattered on the first day when Stella observes one pilot force another to crash into the English Channel. Wein skillfully intertwines the mystery surrounding the crash and the increasingly suspicious behavior of various race participants and officials with the escalating tensions induced by episodes of sabotage and unsportsmanlike actions, both in the air and on the ground. Wein’s prose shines especially bright during her descriptions of the landscape from the air, particularly the lasting effects of trench warfare on the terrain of Europe and the dread of another war. Her thorough research and attention to detail make the era come alive for readers. Back matter includes an extensive author’s note and brief bibliography of works that inspired this novel.
VERDICT Fans of Wein’s earlier works, Keith O’Brien’s Fly Girls, and Steve Sheinkin’s Born to Fly will greatly enjoy this novel. Highly recommended for all libraries.

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