Monday, March 23, 2015

Book Review: Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Black Dove White Raven Elizabeth Wein cover
I loved the story and the historical element of Black Dove, White Raven, but this is the second of Wein's books that I've been uncomfortable with the way it is narrated.

Teo's and Em's mothers are pilots. We're in the 1930s and blacks and whites just don't mix, so they have trouble getting flying jobs. Teo's late father is Ethiopian, so his mother longs to go live in Ethiopia, where Teo won't suffer the discrimination that he does in the United States. Everything changes when Teo's mother is suddenly killed in an airplane accident. Em's mother is devastated, and moves them back to her Quaker parents in Pennsylvania. After she recovers, she vows to keep her promise to Teo's mother, and the three of them eventually end up in Ethiopia.

There is a lot to the story. Em's mom works as a pilot in Ethiopia too. She eventually decides to teach the kids to fly when a war with Italy seems imminent. She worries about Teo because she can't claim him as her own son. Things get even more complicated as secrets are revealed.

There's a lot about flying, but also about the war with Italy. And the Arc of the Covenant. And slavery. And coffee. The story moves slowly and is rich with details. But...I just didn't like how it was told.

Most of Black Dove, White Raven is supposedly flight logs written by Em and Teo. But their voices aren't distinct and the POV changes abruptly sometimes. Then part of the book is the story that Em and Teo are writing about Black Dove and White Raven. That gets mixed in too. The narration jumps back and forth in time also. I just found it a lot of work to keep track of "who, what, and when" while reading. Some of it has to do with the names of places and people that were Ethiopian. Also, admittedly, I was reading an ARC so hopefully the formatting in the final copy will serve to help the reader understand when the POV is changing.

I like the story. It's a part of history I knew nothing about, and that always earns points with me. Just like Code Name VerityI would hesitate to recommend this to some teen readers because of the difficulty with the writing. Black Dove, White Raven is not a book for reluctant readers, but a more sophisticated reader who enjoys historical fiction will enjoy this one.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, March 31, 2015
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 3/5

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  1. Great review. I didn’t know that Elizabeth Wein had a new novel coming out. I’ve read her other books, and I liked them. She writes about some interesting historical periods.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  2. Like you I had trouble with Wein's narrative style. I always seem to be taken out of the story when the narrative changes. I do look forward to reading this one since I know nothing about that part of WW II. Great review.

  3. Interesting. I liked CODE NAME VERITY and I'm always interested in racism/Civil Rights books, so I'll probably give this one a go. It sounds different, anyway.

  4. The narration threw me off in this one as well. It made me feel disconnected from the characters in many ways. I still enjoyed it, but like you I didn't like the indistinct character voices.

  5. I had trouble with CODE NAME VERITY but liked the sequel better. Maybe I knew what to expect. Do you think this book has Printz Award quality writing?

    1. I liked Rose Under Fire SOOO much better than Verity. And this one. She has a unique and lovely style. I think this one could get a look for the Printz (in my very un-expert opinion.)


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