Monday, September 29, 2014

Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven | Book Review

(I'm torn on this cover.  I want to love it: it's clean and cool and totally evokes the time period in which the story takes place.  BUT it doesn't match the first two books in the series.  I really like books in a series to coordinate.  Looks like the fourth book, American Blonde, has a cover that coordinates with this one but not with the first two.  Hmm.)

First, a small word of (commonsense) warning: This is the third book in a series.  This review will reveal spoilers for the first two books but will not spoil this one.  What is neat about this book, though, is that I don't think you'd have to read Velva Jean Learns to Drive or Velva Jean Learns to Fly to enjoy Becoming Clementine.  Yes, the story is much richer if you've read the first two, but you won't be lost in the woods if you haven't.

Becoming Clementine opens with Velva Jean and two other WASPs ferrying a B-17 bomber from America to England.  Upon landing in England they are supposed to turn right around and take another plane back to America.  But that evening Gossie, Helen, and Velva Jean have dinner with some RAF pilots who tell them how battered the pilots are.  How dozens and dozens are getting shot down.  How more pilots are needed.  Well, Velva Jean knows how to fly a plane!  She doesn't hesitate; she goes directly to the base commander and offers her service.  A bonus: while flying missions in Europe she'd be able to do some research and see if she can't find her brother, Johnny Clay, who's been MIA for a few months.  Just a few days after arriving in England as a WASP, Velva Jean takes off as copilot in an RAF plane.  She's going to be the first female pilot in WWII!  The story takes a turn when her plane is shot down and nearly the entire crew is killed.  Velva Jean is on her own in Nazi-occupied France with a team of spies. 

And that's just the first 75 pages or so.

I promised no spoilers, but this book is just SO FREAKING EXCITING!  The entire time I was reading it I equal parts wanted to be Velva Jean/Clementine and have adventures in France and also so not be Velva Jean and be in danger so often!  There is intrigue and spies and danger and travels and a hot French gypsy and a prison and a mission and a rescue.  Of course on top of all that Velva Jean still finds time to write songs and sing (in English and in French now) and search for her missing brother.  Velva Jean does SO MUCH that it was hard to remember that she's only 22!  

My advice to readers of the book: set aside an afternoon.  Once you get into the story, you won't want to put it down!

*I received my copy of Becoming Clementine from my public library.

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