Robbie's father is a spitfire pilot who was shot down during World War II and is now a POW. At only seventeen, Robbie lies about his identity to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force under the guise of going to a boarding school so that his mother doesn't find out. He starts training in Brandon, Manitoba, but after acing all his classes, he's dealt a disappointing blow when he's assigned to be a navigator on a Lancaster. He wanted to be a pilot, just like his father, but the commanders of the air force have other ideas. Robbie is soon on his way to England, where he completes his training on missions bombing German targets in enemy territory. It is during one of these missions that his Lancaster is fired upon and the pilot and many of the crew are shot. It's up to Robbie and his limited piloting experience to save the crew...and himself.
This book caught my attention as soon as it was out - after all, there aren't many novels out there that shows WW2 through the eyes of a seventeen year old navigator.
That's right, he was fighting in the war in 1943 before he was even eligible to be enlisted. The book tells us how it came about and more as we follow the adventures of Robert aka David McWilliam described both as he takes part in them and through the letters he sends to his friend Chip.
Robert is desperate to do the things the grown-ups are supposed to do. It certainly reminds the adult reader what it felt like at his age... but while we risked driving without a licence and underage drinking - and how cool was that! - Robert wanted to join the fighting.
The book starts as he and his friend Chip leave their small sleepy Canadian town to start school in Toronto. Only Robert is finished with the school. He's a man who wants to do a man's job, to fight in the war against the Germans. And so begins his journey across the continent while the loyal Chip stays in Toronto and supports the deception of Robert's family. Finally Robert's dream comes true, he reaches England and finally joins the air forces as a navigator. The reality of the war is far from his dreams of heroical deeds, however.
The book is well researched and describes the pilots' routine, fighting, life and death with brutal honesty. My only objection is that the end is too abrupt, it leaves the reader wondering about too many things that are left unsaid. 4.5 stars
See the original review on goodreads