Flight Path by David Hill, Penguin Random House NZ
With this gripping story David Hill continues his series of award-winning YA books on the World Wars, following on from Enemy Camp, Brave Company, and My Brother’s War.
It’s satisfying to see so many war-experience books for young readers being published in New Zealand at the moment – ten years ago there were hardly any local titles available (remember Ken Catran’s books?), but now the niche is being well and truly filled. I hasten to add that these books are NOT glorifying war. Quite the opposite – they should influence younger generations to prevent such devastating wars ever happening again.
It’s 1944 and 18-year-old Jack is beginning his first sequence of flights as a bomb-aimer and gunner, jammed in the nose of a Lancaster bomber. A desire for excitement and the chance to leave New Zealand and see the world kept him going throughout his training, but it doesn’t take long for his excitement to turn to terror and dread. The casualty rate for the bomber crews was unbelievably high. As well as coping with the discomfort and danger of the bombing runs over France and Germany, Jack has to come to terms with the realisation that he has a strong likelihood of dying.
I’m not the target readership for this book, but I couldn’t put it down. David has obviously done huge amounts of research to capture what life was like for the Lancaster crews, and has used his writing skills to capture the details that make the story come alive. Who knew that once they’d dropped their bombs, the bombers had to do a straight 30-second camera run over the target, through searchlights and streams of flak and attacking enemy fighters, in order to get a photographic record of the bomb damage?
David deftly weaves other themes into Jack’s story – a budding romance, the importance of teamwork, the cruel effects of war on families of all nationalities.
Recommended for keen readers of about 11 and up, especially those with an interest in the history of the world wars.
ISBN 978 0 14 377052 7 $19.99 Pb
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman