Female pilots are every bit as brave, adventurous, and downright badass as their male counterparts, but historically they haven’t gotten the same amount of attention. Luckily, some YA writers are trying to change that. The novels below all feature women who are reclaiming the term flygirl, dead set on proving themselves as first-class pilots. Whether they’re fighting Nazis, alternate-universe WWI enemies, or Death itself, these ladies are more than up for any challenge they’re faced with. Even better, they’re a diverse cast of characters any reader can relate to. Whether you like history, fantasy, or realistic fiction, come take a ride with these aviatrix novels.
Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith
There’s nothing Ida Mae Jones wants more than to be a pilot. On one hand, now that the U.S. has started WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots, to help fight in the war in Germany, she just might get a chance. On the other, Ida Mae is black, which means no one is willing to give her a chance to fly. Her only option is to try to “pass” as a white pilot, even if it means turning her back on her family and culture. Can she reconcile her dream of flying with the sacrifices she’ll have to make?
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
After she’s flown into Nazi-occupied France, a young British spy, code-named Verity, is captured by the enemy and forced to reveal British military secrets. In her account, she explains how she met Maddie, her best friend and the woman who was flying their plane. Meanwhile, Maddie is doing all she can to rescue her friend before it’s too late. Fans of historical fiction that focuses on strong and gutsy female characters will go crazy over this one.
The Game of Love and Death, by Martha Brockenbrough
Flora is an African American jazz singer and would-be pilot. Henry is white, wealthy, and assured of future success and comfort, despite the Great Depression and the fact that he’s a foster child in a rich man’s house. The two have been chosen by Love and Death to become pawns in a game between the two forces that has been going on for hundreds of years—and so far, Death has always come out on top. Let’s see if Flora and Henry can finally give Love a fighting chance at winning, despite terrible odds.
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
This book gives you what you never knew you needed: a steampunk, alternative-universe World War I. Alek, heir to the Austrian throne, is on the run from the Germans. He meets Deryn, who has disguised herself as a boy to fly for the British air service. (Though she’s flying an actual whale, not a plane, but whatevs. It still counts.) Maybe you can convince your history teacher to let you study this version of WWI rather than the real one.
Such a Rush, by Jennifer Echols
Looking to escape her life in the trailer park, Leah begins working at a nearby airfield. After she convinces the owner, Mr. Hall, to give her flying lessons, he promises to give her a job when she graduates. After Mr. Hall dies suddenly, however, his twin sons come back to take over the family business. Leah is initially attracted to Grayson, but after he begins blackmailing her in order to keep her working for the family, she no longer knows who she can trust.