Sherri L. Smith's "Flygirl" is a gem of a novel, taking place during the middle of World War II where a young woman enlists as a pilot in the army. However, in doing so, she not only faces the dangers that await her in the sky, but an everyday danger as she hides her racial identity in order to make her dreams happen. I loved the writing, the strength of the characterizations, and the overarching story as it deals with many difficult issues of the time - racism, sexism, and issues of identity and overcoming odds. Ida Mae Jones is a strong, smart, savvy protagonist, and I wish there were more characters like her in the YA genre.
I really wish there were more novels like this in the genre in general, because it's not just the fact that this novel sets the place, time, and social environment very well (the research is impeccably done), but it also brings to the forefront very real characters. Ida Mae is a sweetheart, her best friend Jolene is hilarious, and her family is front and center in the novel - through their ups and downs. Even as Ide Mae hides her identity as a part of the WASP group, you get to know the ladies she accompanies very well there, and learn how Ida's drawn to them. The story sucked me into the very real stakes that Ida Mae faces with respect to her gender and race, and I certainly felt for and identified with her. Yet the reader follows Ida Mae's determination in her goals, her triumphs, her heartaches in the realm of loss, and even love.
I would very highly recommend "Flygirl" for anyone who wants to read a story of a young woman's determination to achieve her dreams in the face of prejudice in a very different time than our own. I think even those who read YA that don't normally read historical fiction would find this an immersive read, and one well worth the time spent.