Monday, October 3, 2011

Review: Wings by Karl Friedrich

Sally Ketchum has had it tough.  Her mother died when she was very young.  Her father was abusive and an alcoholic.  And Tex, her boyfriend and the love of her life, died in a fiery plane crash that Sally somehow miraculously survived.  Hopefully though, her bad luck might be about to change.  World War II is being fought and Sally has been chosen to train as a WASP for the Army.  She can hardly believe it-she'll be able to make a living flying planes.  But Sally and her new friends at the training school soon realize that there are a lot of men who don't want women in the cockpit, and they want to shut down the WASP program.  Sally and her friends, along with Beau, a handsome flight instructor, must keep strong and hope that the program doesn't shut down.  After all, the WASP may be the only chance any of them have at a better future.

I wanted to read Wings as soon as I read the plot summary.  I am a big WWII buff, especially when it comes to the roles women played during the war.  This book didn't let me down.  It's not so much a historical fiction account of the WASP as it is a poignant description of women and their place as secondary citizens in society at the time, and I ate it up.  Sally is such a real character and is relying on her status as a WASP to help her further her career in aviation.  When that dream is threatened, Sally takes it personally, and I don't blame her.  I'm sure many women who took on mens' jobs during the war felt the same way as Sally did as the war began coming to a close.  They liked their newly found freedom and the independence that having a job gave them.  Sally was dirt poor before she began WASP training, and I could really feel her desperation.  The author doesn't just give us Sally though.  Friedrich develops a set of characters who Sally befriends who are from all walks of life.  One, Dixie, is a model, and Sally has a hard time accepting that Dixie wants to fly.  Dixie doesn't need the job, but she wants it all the same.  Twila and Geri also have different pasts and circumstances than Sally, yet everyone wants one thing in the end-to fly and to succeed as a female pilot in a world governed by men.

I thought Sally's relationship with Tex, and how she still aches from his loss years later, was touching.  It didn't seem overly dramatic, like sometimes happens in books where people are grieving.  Some might say Sally was stubborn, holding on to Tex and his memory after so long, and at such a young age herself, but I think she was just being true to her heart.  Tex was a very special person, and not only to Sally.  I thought it was extremely bold and loving of her to keep his memory so near when many women in her situation would have married someone else as a solution to being broke.

Wings is a fast paced novel, and I wasn't bored at all while reading it.  It actually reminded me of the WWII books I used to read in middle school.  I loved reading those books back in the day and the similarities with this one made me want to keep reading it.  The writing was simple but suited the story well.  I recommend Karl Friedrich's Wings to anyone interested in the different roles women played on the homefront during WWII, and I think it would be a great book for tweens and teens because it introduces them to the WASP in a way that isn't dry and right out of a history textbook.

Title: Wings: A Novel of War War II Flygirls
Author: Karl Friedrich
Date of Publication: April 1st, 2011
Number of Pages: 304
Genre: Fiction


  1. Great review. I really want to read this. I must recommend the book Flygirl, by Sherri Smith, which is a YA book about the same thing -- except our main character is in WASP training, and is hiding the fact that she is African American. Thanks!

  2. I'm reading this soon -- I too loved the plot from the moment I heard about it. I also love the cover, which I think rather sweetly conveys that mix of the era, the domestic sphere women were supposed to inhabit, etc. Glad it was as good as it sounds!