“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.
Rhoda and Delia are American stunt pilots who perform daring aerobatics to appreciative audiences. But while the sight of two girls wingwalking – one white, one black – is a welcome novelty in some parts of the USA, it’s an anathema in others. Rhoda and Delia dream of living in a world where neither gender nor ethnicity determines their life. When Delia is killed in a tragic accident, Rhoda is determined to make that dream come true. She moves to Ethiopia with her daughter, Em, and Delia’s son, Teo.
Em and Teo have adapted to scratching a living in a strange land, and feel at home here; but their parents’ legacy of flight and the ability to pilot a plane places them in an elite circle of people watched carefully by the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, who dreams of creating an air force for his fledgling nation. As Italy prepares for its invasion of Ethiopia, Em and Teo find themselves inextricably entangled in the crisis — and they are called on to help.
Sigh. I was so looking forward to this book, having absolutely loved (and been emotionally wrecked by) Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, also by Elizabeth Wein. Sadly, this new book simply does not measure up.
The synopsis is a bit misleading, for starter. Delia’s accident happens quite early in the story, and we get only a few glimpses of Rhoda and Delia’s friendship and flying adventures. Most of the book takes place in Ethiopia, after Rhoda brings Teo and Em there to start a new life. The book is told via Emilia and Teo’s flight logs, as they record their flying lessons plus their impressions of everything going on around them. While there are interesting snippets, in many ways the overall story feels disjointed and choppy. I didn’t feel that Rhoda’s plans were clearly established, and the ups and downs of their life in Ethiopia are conveyed in choppy episodes that don’t add up to a cohesive whole.
As an added distraction, the book seems to presuppose a certain amount of knowledge of the history of Ethiopia in the 1930s — and I’d guess that most of the target audience would have not the slightest clue. (I relied on Wikipedia to get a basic foundation for appreciating the geopolitics of the time, but how many YA readers would take the time to do this?)
There are some very interesting moments in Black Dove, White Raven, along with a series of dramatic and horrifying events toward the end of the book, but mostly it was a long haul that lacked a real sense of rhythm and flow.
Title: Black Dove, White Raven
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Publication date: March 5, 2015
Length: 480 pages
Genre: Historical fiction/young adult fiction