Tuesday, October 3, 2017

[Review: Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz]

"Among the Red Stars"
Author: Gwen C. Katz
Series: None
Pages: 384
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, War Stories
Date Published: October 3rd, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format Read: eARC provided by the publisher (via Edelweiss) for honest review



World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.

Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines.

As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home.

Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war.

My Thoughts:

I love when a book takes real events, real people, and then transposes a fictional story over the top. That's how Among the Red Stars is written, and this is why I enjoyed this book so much. Katz tells a tale of the Night Witches, a group of female airwomen that flew the skies during World War II in Soviet Russia. 

We read a lot of World War II stories, but for the most part we're reading stories that take place in Europe, Great Britain, or America. Katz brings us the story from the eyes of a female pilot fighting for Russia, and it makes the narrative new, it shows the war in a new light, and it also gives us a little bit of Russian history as well.

Valka is a wonderful character, and even though she's one of the fictional ones, she feels real. You feel her excitement when she realizes that all of her flight time in a broken down plane is actually going to let her help her country, you see the conflict she has when the war becomes something that she's fighting, and you get to learn history as her story unfolds. Valka has to deal with the realities of war, and the fact that she's the one dropping bombs on people in the dark of night. 

The story is told two ways, we get to see letters written between Valka and her old friend Pasha, and also what is happening to Valka while she waits for his replies. The letters give the story a bit of a romance, but they're also there to tell you what it was like for the men on the ground as well as the women in the sky. Sometimes the romance aspect got a little old (which is why this drops from a 5 to 4 unicorn book), but I enjoyed the letters for that inside look into the other, male driven side of the war.

And let's not forget that this story is also about female friendship. It's a story about girls brought together by a love of flying, as well as a love for their country, that then becomes a love for each other. Valka and her cousin go to sign up for the war together, and become a team that we can't help but root for.

I think what I found most interesting about this book is that so much of it is true. Sure, Katz tells us in the author's notes that she had to fudge a bit of the truth to make her story work, but that was basically just timelines. And even though Valka, her cousin, Pasha, and the characters in Valka's family weren't real, so many of the other women who feel these pages were. Make sure you read the author's note when you're done, it'll put the story in a whole new light.

 4 Unicorns = Close to perfect!

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