There are two well-known criteria for a good piece of historical fiction (HF).
1. The HF should teach you something about the time period.
2. The HF should accurately present the time period through dialogue, setting and accurate facts.
I'd like to add a third. HF should be so good you forget you’re learning something and just be entertained. The third requirement, I fear, would be a statement that would be met with some resistance (especially if you love historical fiction). For that reason, I will stick with the two.
For these two reasons, Flygirl by sherri l. smith is a great novel. This is the story of Ida Mae Jones, a teenager growing up in Louisiana during the early forties. She and her family live a meager life as they deal with the loss of her father, a former pilot. Ida Mae's chances of becoming pilot are lessened by the fact she is woman; however, the door is completely closed when she realizes that only Caucasian women are allowed join the Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASP).
It is after her brother is declared missing, after he enlists in the Army, that Ida Mae decides to use one attribute that she's seen as hindrance to her advantage - her light skin color. Ida Mae decides to "pass" and pretend to be white in order to join the WASPS. During her training, Ida Mae learns how to control and navigate planes, as well as how to blend in with the other women in her unit. It is during these learning experiences that she also learns about her own strength, the strength of her family and the strength within her own community.
The strength of the book is the writer's ability to blend in the historical facts regarding the WASP program, as well as her ability to use dialogue that draws the readers into the lives of the characters. From idealistic and tenacious Ida Mae to gung ho and rebellious Jolene and naive and resilient Lilly, smith maneuvers through various topics while piloting a masterful example of historical fiction.