An entertaining, well-researched aviation tale that allows its hero to soar.


A talented young pilot and her homing pigeon join the war effort in this debut YA historical novel set in the 1940s.

The first time Frances Finkel flew a plane, “she knew it was where she belonged.” At the age of 17 in November 1941, she’s already logged 2,500 flight hours and is a skilled mechanic in her father’s maintenance shop at Seal Rock Airport in Oregon. After Fran’s twin brother, Danny, died and her mother left, Joel Finkel has kept a close eye on his daughter and her younger brother, Seamus. But Fran is restless, longing to make her mark as an aviator and join the community of female pilots. Women aren’t allowed to serve in the Army Air Force, but Fran—who believes in following the “laws of attraction” and manifesting your desires—doesn’t give up hope. After turning 18 in September 1942, Fran jumps at the chance to participate in a secret military project recruiting women to ferry planes from factories to air bases. She’s aided by her passenger pigeon, Easter, who can send messages for her. Fran amply proves her worth and embraces the female pilot community while also discovering more about her mother, facing loss, and finding romance. In her book, Mahoney throws light on the neglected contributions of female pilots in World War II. She conveys not just the importance of the work, but also its dangers and, often, its tremendous fun—as when an assignment in Hollywood leads to Fran’s dancing with movie star Gregory Peck. Fran’s character development nicely tracks with her growing responsibilities. Although the Law of Attraction philosophy might seem contemporary, it has roots in the 19th century, so the author’s historicity is sound.

An entertaining, well-researched aviation tale that allows its hero to soar.

Pub Date: April 17, 2022


Page Count: 157

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful.

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January 1945: as Russians advance through East Prussia, four teens’ lives converge in hopes of escape.

Returning to the successful formula of her highly lauded debut, Between Shades of Gray (2011), Sepetys combines research (described in extensive backmatter) with well-crafted fiction to bring to life another little-known story: the sinking (from Soviet torpedoes) of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff. Told in four alternating voices—Lithuanian nurse Joana, Polish Emilia, Prussian forger Florian, and German soldier Alfred—with often contemporary cadences, this stints on neither history nor fiction. The three sympathetic refugees and their motley companions (especially an orphaned boy and an elderly shoemaker) make it clear that while the Gustloff was a German ship full of German civilians and soldiers during World War II, its sinking was still a tragedy. Only Alfred, stationed on the Gustloff, lacks sympathy; almost a caricature, he is self-delusional, unlikable, a Hitler worshiper. As a vehicle for exposition, however, and a reminder of Germany’s role in the war, he serves an invaluable purpose that almost makes up for the mustache-twirling quality of his petty villainy. The inevitability of the ending (including the loss of several characters) doesn’t change its poignancy, and the short chapters and slowly revealed back stories for each character guarantee the pages keep turning.

Heartbreaking, historical, and a little bit hopeful. (author’s note, research and sources, maps) (Historical fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-16030-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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