Ida Mae Jones learned to fly from her father before he died; now her dream is to get her pilot's license. That dream must be shelved when the U.S. enters World War Two following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But when her older brother goes off to war and Ida Mae learns of an opportunity to help by flying planes with the Women Airforce Service Pilots, she knows she can't pass up the opportunity.
Even if it means forging her pilot's license. Even if it means not mentioning the fact that she's not exactly white. "Passing" isn't unheard of in Ida Mae's world, but, as Ida Mae learns, it leads down a road that's not as easy to follow or to backtrack from. Can she really be herself with new friends if they can never meet her darker-skinned family? And who is she really flying for--her brother, her country, or herself?
This book is fabulous in its depth and character development. In many ways it reminded me of Christine Fletcher's Ten Cents a Dance, another YA historical novel set on the homefront during World War Two. They're very different books, but both feature strong female young women who are so drawn to something that they go against their mothers' wishes to do it. Both protagonists walk a fine line between two worlds and end up in over their heads. Both risk losing their sense of identity in a world that's foreign to them. Both books offer a historical perspective with contemporary appeal, and neither one shies away from the racism that underlies so much of what happened during that era.
Sherrie Smith is the author of three additional YA books. More information about Smith and her books (including discussion guides) can be found on her website, SherriLSmith.com. There's also a Myspace page for Ida Mae!
The soundtrack: When Ida walks into the Avengerette with her friends (past the sign that says Whites Only), the song Dream a Little Dream of Me is playing. I decided to use this rendition, by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.