Monday, August 3, 2015

Black Dove, White Raven - Elizabeth Wein

Summary: Emilia and Teo's lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo's mother died immediately, but Em's survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother's wishes-in a place where he won't be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.

Seeking a home where her children won't be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?

In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit. (pic and summary from

My Review: This book review makes me sad to write. First of all, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Elizabeth Wein. I mean, Code Name Verity is listed as one of my favorite books and I gave the companion book, Rose Under Fire, five stars, which I rarely do. I loved both those books. One of my friends and I have kind of an ongoing discussion about how awesome Verity is.

Now to this book. First off, I know that Wein is a pilot herself and so women pilots are near and dear to her heart. I get that. And I’m not sick of that repertoire, either. What I did find disappointing about this book, though, was that it was similarly written to Verity in that a lot of it is letter style. This is fine. I don’t always love this style, but sometimes it works. However, Wein complicated this a lot by having several different types of documents going on—letters, diaries, flight logs, and, inexplicably to me, an ongoing fantasy story written by the two kids who are pilots. I didn’t get the story. Granted, I didn’t spend a lot of time on it because although it was supposed to be allegorical and all it was just kind of far-fetched and weird and boring. The kids referenced it throughout (and when I say “kid” I’m being matronly about it because the “kids” are like 16 and 17 when the book ends) but I never cared to actually read it carefully enough to see some kind of premonition or something about what was going to happen, and, unfortunately, it was just boring.

So the style was kind of confusing. It often switched off between who was writing and what the writing was for. Sometimes the chapters were short because of this, sometimes they were long. There was really no consistency or rhyme and reason to why it was written the way it was. I’m interested to see if Wein can actually write a straightforward novel because at this point she hasn’t done it yet. I loved her first two; I just don’t think she pulled it off with this one.

Wein is, in my opinion, a talented writer. I don’t think this was her best writing. Part of that is possibly because this was written as if by kids (and “kids”), but it’s not like the writing was different enough versus the two writers to even be able to tell, let alone their ages. It was just mediocre writing.

The story itself was interesting enough. It was kind of tragic and like Wein’s other novels, everything isn’t always hunky dory and everyone doesn’t live happily ever after. I like this about her writing. However, the writing style and confusion of it all made it a somewhat difficult read for me.

My Rating: 2.5 stars

For the sensitive reader: This is a clean book, but there is some discussion of real-life war situations which are by nature somewhat disturbing. 

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