Among the Red Stars

March 6, 2018

Author: Gwen C. Katz.


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:

Great historical fiction! Among the Red Stars is set in Russia, World War II and heavily based in historical fact.

Valka and Pasha, teenage friends separated by the war, are both heading off to fight for their country. But while joining the air force is Valka’s dream come true, pay off time for the hundreds and hundreds of hours she’s put in learning to fly in a rickety old plane, joining the ground troups is Pasha’s worst nightmare. The gentle boy doesn’t want to kill or be killed, but there’s no fighting the conscription, so off the two go.

The story is told through Valka’s POV, as well as Valka’s and Pasha’s letters to each other. I really loved this style, of telling Pasha’s story through his letters. It broke up the story, providing a wider view of the war, it introduced a completely natural suspense – when months/chapters pass without a letter from Pasha, the reader is as worried as Valka – and, of course, the long handwritten letters they exchanged were just sweet. The slow, quiet growth of romance between them was natural and lovely: the two were close friends before the war, and their correspondence drew them closer. It offered a chance to see the insecurities and fear of these young people caught up in war, and their courage as they forged on.

Valka’s flying regiment was a real female regiment, who became known as The Night Witches, because their nighttime bombing runs were so terrifying to the Germans. Many of the battles that come up in the book were also real. It’s not a history book, though: it’s a very personal story. The ending was a bit of stretch for me, with the main characters getting away with more than what seemed realistic, but honestly I was glad it didn’t break my heart!

Content Review:

Sexual Content: rumor about superior officer – “she’s sleeping with someone at headquarters, isn’t she?” Girls find pictures of american planes with pictures painted on them – many of naked women. One suggests painting a naked man on their plane. Kiss.

Language: a***h(le hell scato

Violence: Characters walk through the ruins of a bombed city. Brief scuffle between a couple of kids, one accidentally gets kicked in the face. Soldier shot in the throat, dies. Character killed by flying shrapnel from a bomb. Characters fly multiple bombing runs, bombing soldiers and camps; several planes are shot down at different points. One plane crashes into an enemy plane, taking them both down. Questioning two prisoners – hits one across the face and breaks his jaw – both prisoners are shot. Plane catches on fire, makes a crash landing, the pilot survives with burns all down her left side. One POV character goes through an assault – firing on both sides, soldiers dying.

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