Nothing But Sky, by Amy Trueblood
Publish Date: March 27, 2018
Published by: Flux/North Star Editions
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (2.5 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an egalley from the publisher through NetGalley in return for an honest review.**
Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she’s dangling 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace is determined to get to the World Aviation Expo, proving her team’s worth against flashier competitors and earning a coveted Hollywood contract.
No one’s ever questioned Grace’s ambition until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick, Henry pushes Grace to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, Grace continues to test the powers of the sky.
After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform at the Expo. She jumps at the opportunity to secure her future. But when a stunt goes wrong, Grace must decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.
I want to start off by saying that I really, really wanted to like this book. When I first heard about it I thought for sure it was going to be right up my alley – 1920s, planes, and romance? I was all “sign me up!”. And if I hadn’t been so hopeful that at some point it would live up to my expectations, I probably would have DNF’ed it a lot sooner.
My biggest issue with the book had to be Grace herself. As a main character she was a little two-dimensional to me, with next-to-no character growth happening throughout the entire novel, except for a small smidgen at the end. She is strong-willed and stubborn, yes, but to the point where she is so single-minded she refuses to listen to anyone else and does only what she wants to do without thought for any consequences. It was actually a little irritating at times, especially because everything she did still worked out for her in the end so she never actually learned that how she was acting was wrong sometimes. In fact, she spends so many times telling her teammates to stop treating her like a little girl when that is exactly what she acts like the entire time. And having the sudden realization of what she was doing wrong in the last five chapters of the book just did not do any justice, I thought.
The second part I was severely disappointed in was the romance. It started off interestingly, with Grace and Henry being a bit at odds with each other, but once they called a “truce” it all suddenly became cheesy and cliché. I think I muttered “gag me” at far too many lines and moments between them. It just didn’t feel natural or all that romantic in the least.
Third, the plot. It was okay, but not really all that engaging to be honest. It moved at a decent pace, but it also felt like nothing of consequence was really happening. No matter what hurdle was thrown in their way, the team always managed to jump over it with ease or with some deus ex machina, making it feel like there really wasn’t all that much at stake. By the end I felt basically no investment in the team’s plight whatsoever.
Fourth, the writing. While it was engaging and easy to follow, I was not entirely impressed with it. The setting is supposed to be Nebraska in 1922, but there were barely any descriptors that really made it feel like that, save for some 1920s references thrown in here and there that didn’t really do much in terms of setting the time period. (Literally, it isn’t even until the chapter before meeting her that Grace mentions the name Bessie Coleman and how she is apparently her hero and how she would love to meet her – I felt like to really make that meeting mean something Grace should have been talking about her long before that moment).
Then there was the way the characters spoke to one another, describing things that happened to them or that they did in ways that I feel normal people don’t really talk like – they would describe things that way someone might describe something happening in a scene in a book they are writing, not how someone might describe something verbally to someone else. It just felt overdone and strange, with descriptions that I know I wouldn’t consider when speaking aloud to someone else. And in the middle of random conversations one character would suddenly be throwing out a moving and strong piece of advice to Grace for absolutely no reason at all and without any prior context to make it really make sense. Finally, there are the chapter endings – most of them just fell flat where they ended, neither landing on a cliffhanger or a strong moment or a really smart line. They just, ended.
I had other issues as well – how some of the other characters had traits that felt like they were struggling to be a part of them like an ill-fitting jacket, how Grace apparently spent eighteen years of her life not knowing what the Big Dipper even was, and how the author would toss things in without really explaining them (what was that thing at the end where Grace touched the propeller and yelled “Contact!”? Is that something that people did? Is it important for that type of plane?).
I wish I could say something nice about this book, like how Grace is a great strong female character and all, but if she can’t recognize her own flaws for the majority of the novel and learn to fix them then I’m not really keen to say so. She’s very obtuse when it comes to other people’s feelings and what issues they might be going through, and in all honestly is just a very big disappointment of a character I thought.
Sadly, I was very disappointed in this book. Like I said, I really wanted to enjoy it and had such high hopes for it, which were unfortunately dashed to pieces. It was a good concept, but I just think that it fell flat in too many places to make me really enjoy it.