Velva Jean Learns to Fly

Velva Jean Learns to Fly

by Jennifer Niven


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452297401
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/30/2011
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 702,526
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Jennifer Niven is the New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places and Holding Up the Universe, as well as the popular Velva Jean series. She is also the author of several non-fiction books, including Ada Blackjack, The Aqua-Net Diaries, and The Ice Master, which was named a top non-fiction book by Entertainment Weekly. Her New York Times bestseller All the Bright Places is soon to be a major motion picture starring Elle Fanning. Although she grew up in Indiana, she now lives with her fiancé and literary cats in Los Angeles, which remains her favorite place to wander.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Besides creating a gutsy heroine, who, despite the repressive times, never becomes bitter, Niven's writing shines overall. Cheers to Niven, Velva Jean." —-Booklist Starred Review

Reading Group Guide


Velva Jean Hart, the fiercely independent heroine of Jennifer Niven's spectacular debut novel, Velva Jean Learns to Drive, returns in a captivating adventure that literally sends her soaring. Bristling at the limitations faced by a woman in rural Appalachia and fuelled by the memory of her late Mama telling her to "live out there," Velva Jean hits the road to pursue her dream of singing at the Grand Ole Opry. But after a string of auditions, she begins to lose hope—until her brother pays her a surprise visit and treats Velva Jean to a flying lesson that ignites a brand-new dream: to become a female pilot. Funny, poignant, and utterly unforgettable, Velva Jean Learns to Fly will have fans cheering all over again


Jennifer Niven's first book, The Ice Master, was named one of the top ten nonfiction books of the year byEntertainment Weekly. Her second book, Ada Blackjack, was a Book Sense Top Ten Pick. She splits her time between Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Q. This is your second novel featuring Velva Jean. How did the experience of writing this book differ from that of writingVelva Jean Learns to Drive? Did you find that Velva Jean's voice changed for you at all between the two books? What was it about the characters in Velva Jean Learns to Drive that compelled you to return to them?

The experience of writing Velva Jean Learns to Fly was interesting because, in Learns to Drive, she is very much a sheltered girl from a very remote place, and suddenly, with this second book, I am thrusting her out into the great, big world as an independent young woman. In many ways, the process of writing the second book was similar to the first—researching madly and totally immersing myself in her universe—but the main difference for me was in trying to capture her voice. Her voice is the same throughout both books in that she is always, no matter what she's going through, herself. But Velva Jean does a lot of growing up in this second book, and I had to capture that and allow that while still keeping her voice consistent.

As for the characters, they are completely real to me—as real as anyone walking down the street—and because they are so real, and because I genuinely enjoy them as people, I wanted the chance to spend more time with them and see where they were going next. I was especially interested in following up with Velva Jean, Butch Dawkins, and Johnny Clay, who is my favorite character to write. I originally wrote the first Velva Jean book because I'd carried her around with me, in my heart and head, since film school when I wrote the short script version of her story. I wrote the first book and the second book because I wanted to read them. I also wanted to pay homage to the daring girls who appeared in their own adventure stories of the 1920s and 1930s, inspiring girls like Constance Kurridge and Flyin' Jenny, who were comic book heroes. These were young women who spied and flew and acted and sang and fought crime and bad guys and fell in love and did exactly what they wanted to do and were well ahead of their time. I thought it was time for another series along those lines, one that women and girls of all ages (and men and boys too) could enjoy and, hopefully, feel inspired by.

Q. What was it that made you decide to cast Velva Jean in the role of a female pilot? What kind of research did you need to do in order to write the book? Did you know much about women pilots who served in the Second World War before beginning this book?

I originally thought Velva Jean Learns to Drive would end with her flying instead of driving. I outlined the first book so that Velva Jean was working at the Bell Bomber Plant in Marietta, Georgia, and learning to fly there before going on to be a WASP. I very quickly figured out that the flying was actually a different adventure and a different book, and after I finished writingLearns to Drive and was thinking ahead to what would come next for Velva Jean, I knew I still wanted her to be a pilot. After teaching herself to drive, I couldn't imagine anything more liberating or exciting than flying! I had driven through Sweetwater, Texas, about ten years ago and first heard about the WASP then. They have a wonderful museum right on the site of Avenger Field, where the women received their training in 1943 and 1944, and after touring the museum I was so intrigued by these women pilots that I bought everything in the gift shop—books and videos—and, just for fun, I began to read about them. When I began working on Velva Jean Learns to Fly, I dug out those books and videos again and ordered additional ones—everything ever written about or by the WASP. I paid another visit to the museum, and I also reached out to and interviewed actual WASP, the real-life heroic women who inspired Velva Jean's journey.

Q. You've written other wonderful works of nonfiction, but Velva Jean Learns to Drive and Velva Jean Learns to Fly are your first works of fiction, and they're both historical novels. What sorts of demands does writing historical fiction make on a writer? What kind of details do you seek out in order to evoke the past so richly?

My first two books (both nonfiction) required extensive research at libraries and archives across the world, and this also involved sorting through journals and letters and other firsthand materials relating to the people and the expeditions I was writing about. When I made the switch to fiction from nonfiction, my first thought was: this is great! This will be so much easier than nonfiction! Of course, as soon as I began work on both Learns to Drive and Learns to Fly, I realized that: 1) I love to research; and 2) I needed to do just as much research with these books as I did with the first two in order to make them read authentically and organically. I needed to know all I could about the settings, the time period, the real-life entities and events and places that were involved, whether it was a sacred harp singing or a small mountain church or driving an old Ford truck or walking the streets of Nashville or training to be a WASP or flying a B-29. One of my friends calls me a method writer because, much like a method actor, I become completely immersed in my story, right down to the smallest aspect. Even though I have taken some liberties here and there in order to tell Velva Jean's story (it is fiction after all), it's so important to me that it read true.

Q. There are several characters in the novel who eventually pass away. What is it like for you, as a writer, to plot out these untimely deaths? Is it difficult for you to write about the demise of a beloved character?

It is always, always difficult to kill off a character, no matter how big or small or how good or bad the person. I feel guilty and horrible and I am always apologizing in my head to the person I'm having to kill off, but I also cajole and explain, so that I can try to make each of my "victims" see how his death or her death is necessary to the story. Sometimes I will write around the death because I dread it so much, and then I come back and do the deed when there is nothing else left to write. I actually killed off Ruby Poole in an early draft of Learns to Fly, and I mourned and moped about the house until I realized that she really didn't need to die. I don't know who was happier when she was resurrected—Ruby Poole or me!

Q. The ending of Velva Jean Learns to Fly is a cliffhanger. Can you tell us anything about the next book in the series?

The next book is entitled Velva Jean Learns to Spy, and it opens with Velva Jean flying the B-17 Flying Fortress into Prestwick, Scotland, where she's given the invitation to fly missions for the military into occupied France. She accepts, figuring this will get her on her way to finding her brother Johnny Clay, but nothing after that goes as planned… I can't tell you anymore than that, but I can tell you this: Learns to Spy is a more consistently rollicking, edge-of-your-seat adventure story than either of the first books. Velva Jean gets completely swept up into the war, and Velva Jean Learns to Spy ends up being quite a dramatic and exciting and, at times, terrifying adventure.

  • Velva Jean Learns to Fly both opens and closes with Velva Jean setting off on a new adventure. What do you make of that, and what do you think it says about Velva Jean's character? How is her character portrayed in other parts of the novel?
  • When Velva Jean is on the road to Nashville, her yellow truck gets a flat tire. A couple offers to assist her, but she insists on fixing the tire herself. Why do you think she refuses the couple's help? Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt strongly about getting along on your own? What is it about Velva Jean's journey thus far that makes her feel like this is something she needs to take care of?
  • Consider the ways in which Velva Jean's aspirations change and develop throughout the book. Do you still foresee a singing career for her? Does she? What role does music play in her life throughout the novel?
  • At a certain point during her stay in Nashville, Velva Jean starts to have trouble writing songs. What frees her up to write again? Why do you think that is?
  • Before leaving for Sweetwater, Velva Jean returns home to Fair Mountain. She notes at one point that she "was worried that somehow [Harley] might still have a hold on me, just like he always had." Can you understand her concern? What do you think of her relationship with Harley? Do you feel any sympathy for him?
  • What is Velva Jean's relationship with Ty like? Were you surprised by how it progressed? What does Ty represent to Velva Jean? Do you think this relationship changed her at all? If so, in what ways?
  • Faith plays a central role in the novel. How does Velva Jean's faith affect her actions throughout the story? What effect does it have on her feelings about Harley and her divorce? How does faith affect some of the other characters in the novel?
  • What were your initial impressions of Jackie Cochran? How did they change throughout the course of the book? Did you agree with her reasoning for sending Velva Jean and Helen to fly the B-29? Do you believe that she did all she could do for the WASP? It's very important to her to find opportunities to prove that women pilots are just as capable, if not more so, than men. Do you think she succeeds in demonstrating this? Is she able to change the atmosphere at Camp Davis at all?
  • The men at Camp Davis are, for the most part, hostile to Velva Jean and Sally and the other WASP. What effect does this have on the women? Why do you think the men behave this way? Are they simply threatened, or is there something more to it?
  • What about the way Native Americans are treated at Camp Davis? Does the atmosphere affect Butch differently than it does Velva Jean? How does each respond to it?
  • In what ways is this a novel about friendship and camaraderie among women? How do Sally, Loma, Mudge, Paula and Velva Jean all support one another? What about Velva Jean and Gossie's relationship? Do you detect any pettiness or even competition among the WASP? If so, why do you think it exists?
  • Bob Keene is initially friendly toward Velva Jean, but his attitude toward her quickly changes. Why do you think this is? How does Velva Jean feel about him? How does she respond to the news of his death?
  • Velva Jean refers to Butch Dawkins as a "haint" several times. What do you think she means by this? What is it about Butch that lends itself to this characterization? Describe the relationship between Butch and Velva Jean. They're clearly strongly attracted to each other, but do you see their relationship progressing beyond that? Why or why not?
  • Consider Velva Jean's relationship with her family. What role do they play in her life? She and Johnny Clay are particularly close—why do you think that is? What is their relationship like?
  • How does Velva Jean's voice come through in the novel? What techniques does the author use to give you a sense of Velva Jean's personality? Do you think it's effective?
  • Consider the close of the novel. How is Velva Jean feeling about what she's doing and about the WASP program? Is the end of the book hopeful? Why or why not?
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    Velva Jean Learns to Fly 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
    DeweyD More than 1 year ago
    Historical fiction at its best! Author Jennifer Niven uses her research skills, honed as a writer of award-winning nonfiction, to create the setting and plot of her second novel, which is even more delightful than the enjoyable Velva Jean Learns to Drive. Both novels are great choices for book clubs or community reads. Look for the continuing adventures of the plucky Velva Jean in the upcoming third novel, VJ Learns to Spy.
    McGuffyAnn More than 1 year ago
    We first met her in Velva Jean Learns to Drive, where she was searching for her dream. Now Velva Jean is back in a second novel, pursuing her dreams. It is 1941, and Velva Jean has made it to Nashville. She is struggling to make her way in the music industry. Her heart and soul remain grounded in the mountains of North Carolina, but her dream is still to sing at The Grand Ol' Opry. To the shock of the world, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and suddenly everything is changed. Velva Jean sadly watches as men she knows go off to war. Before reporting for military duty, her brother finds her in Nashville. Determined to learn to fly, he takes Velva Jean with him to lessons. This opens up a whole new world to Velva Jean. She loves the feeling of flying, but even more she loves the challenge of it. She decides to learn to fly. Velva Jean continues to delight and surprise. From the mountains to the city to the wild blue yonder, the sky is the limit for her! Through Velva Jean we see the beginning of Women Airforce Service Pilots (Wasps) in World War II. I wonder what Velva Jean, and Jennifer Niven, will do next. I think they are capable of almost anything they put their mind to!
    bnbookgirl on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Velva Jean is one of the best characters written in a long time. Although I liked Velva Jean Learns to Drive a bit better, this is still a great story. Velva Jean is now in her early 20's and she has left her Appalachian home to move to Nashville. VJ soon learns she has a love of flying and joins the WASPS. Niven has done her research, her depiction of the WASPS in WWII is accurate. I love that Johnny Clay, VJ's brother, is brought back in this novel; I enjoy his character. VJ also meets many other characters that you want to read about and get to know. VJ is truly a wonderful character, full of wit, wisdom, spark and sass. Hopefully we will continure to grow with Velva Jean. It would be great to follow her through her life and adventures.
    Soniamarie on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    First of all, I didn't read the first one, Velva Jean Learns to Drive. There was nothing in a premise about a girl learning to drive a truck and sing in the Grand Ole Opry that appealed to me. However, I must read any women in aviation book I can get my hands on, especially concerning the WASP, the Women Air Service Pilots. So I got my hands on this one thanks to LibraryThing and despite the fact I didn't know much about Johnny Clay, Harley, or the history of Velva Jean, I loved it. The book begins with a Velva Jean driving her yellow truck away from her husband and family. She don't like being tied down. She's not cut out to be a preacher's wife... she has dreams that extend beyond her little town. She's gonna make it big in Nashville and sing. She thinks, however, that a business card given to her long ago is gonna lead to fame and fortune, but the entire city of Nashville is filled with wanna be country singers... Velva Jean doesn't make it big, but she makes some terrific friends while trying to.And then thanks to her brother is going to be a paratrooper and head off to war, she learns to fly and her dreams of being a singer are replaced for the moment with dreams of being a pilot. And she joins the WASP despite the fact she never made it past 8th grade and is only 19 years old. She excells, she flys to Mexico for a quickie divorce, she finds love again only to lose it, she makes friends and watches them die... and she sings the entire time even if there is no one there to hear her. Velva Jean is a remarkable character. She has thoughts that make me stop and think myself.. and ponder things I've never pondered before. Like the blues...."Right now I had the kind (of blues) he (Daddy Hoyt) called the Gentle and Wholesome Blues-not the type, like the Mean Devil Blues, that made you kick the door or break someone's window. The Gentle ones were quieter, but they were just about the worst kind because they sat around you and on you and in you, just like a headache or a bad winter cold, and wouldn't leave you alone."Or being told you can't do something..."If there was one thing I hated in this world, it was folks who told you that you couldn't do something. That was worse than being told you shouldn't do it. I knew she meant well, but a person had to believe in herself even when no one else did."The baggage we carry..."The more things that happened to me, the more I thought it was like carrying a suitcase-you kept adding things to it.........You just started adding these things to your suitcase until the case got heavier. You still had to carry it around wherever you went, and even if you set it down for a while you still had to pick it up again because it belonged to you and so did everything inside it."I felt myself growing up with Velva Jean. I only have quibble, but not a big enough quibble to take away a single star. Velva Jean ends up on the cover of Life magazine. Though I know this is historical fiction, I felt this was kinda wrong cause every WASP fan knows that Shirley Slade was on the cover of that magazine and I kinda felt that putting VJ in her spot wasn't right. It's not Velva Jean's accomplishment, but Shirley Slade's.
    tammypanter on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    "Velva Jean Learns To Fly" is a follow up to a book that I really, really liked - "Velva Jean Learns To Drive". Even though this was the second book in the series I think it would be fine as a first read and it isn't really necessary to read VJLTD. I could not wait to read this book and for the most part it delivered. Velva Jean is such an endearing character and you can't help but root for her as she follows her dreams to become a country music singer in Nashville. While in Nashville she meets some great characters and her brother, Johnny Clay, returns as a primary character. The relationship between Velva Jean and Johnny Clay is a sweet one and something rarely seen in contemporary literature. These two are as close as siblings can be and they rely on each other to a great degree even when they are miles apart.While in Nashville Velva Jean experiences her first airplane flight and she discovers a new passion to rival her long-time love of music. She is eventually called to follow this new passion and ends up serving her country during war-time. I was a little disappointed to see music and Nashville take a back seat to this new love of flying but I quickly set that aside as I became excited to see what new adventures awaited Velva Jean. I loved some of the new characters and friends that are introduced in this installment of the VJ story and I felt the story did move along at a satisfying pace. Overall this was good book but I did not like it as well as "Velva Jean Learns To Drive".
    Carolee888 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    This book is the sequel to `Velva Jean Loves to Drive¿. But it works very well as a standalone. I enjoyed this book but thought it just a tad too long at the beginning. What I loved the most was the main character, Velva Jean. She grew up in a very isolated area in the North Carolina Mountains. At the beginning of the book, she decides to leave her husband, Harley Bright and go to Nashville, Tennessee to become a Grand Old Opry singer. Velva Jean is so full of spunk, ambition and heart; it would be very difficult to not love her. She knew that she could accomplish her dream because she had taught herself to drive! I can¿t imagine doing that. I took driving class in junior high with a football coach who scared any confidence that I had at the beginning, later after several private teachers, I learned to dream. So Velva Jean is very different from me when it comes to mechanical things. But I could see myself in her can do attitude and that really bonded me to her. When she hits Nashville in her old yellow truck, she is shocked that you just can walk into a studio and become a singer. The opening of this book was in the pre-war 1940s, so competition in Nashville was already fierce. Velva Jean had a very close relationship with her brother, Johnny Clay. So when he chooses to be a paratrooper, he introduces her to a flight instructor. Then she falls in love with flying. I have never flown an airplane. I have always been attracted to books about women pilots, Jackie Cochrane, and other early women pilots and so I have a pretty good idea about the accuracy of Jennifer Niven¿s book when it comes to real events and the real characters in this book. When Velva Jean decides flying is her dream, she joins the WASPs (Women¿s Air force Pilots). Women were only accepted as civilians not as a genuine part of the Armed Forces during that time. There was a lot of prejudice against women as pilots. The incidents in the book actually are a true part of history. This book reminded me a lot of Forrest Gump. Velva Jean was a fictional character placed in places and situations that really happened and with real people of the past. There are many more characters in the book but I think that is for you to discover. There is some romance, some family, and some dangerous situations. I am sure that this book will not let you down. Now I am a fan of Jennifer Niven and plan to read `Velva Jean Learns to Drive¿.
    SusieBookworm on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Nineteen-year-old Velva Jean Hart has had enough of her life in the North Carolina mountains with her husband, Harley Bright. So, like every good 1940s housewife, she sets off on her own - in the truck she learned to drive in the previous book - for Nashville, where she hopes to start her singing career with the Grand Ole Opry. Once in Tennessee, however, she finds that it's full of people wanting record deals and contracts. Losing hope in finding musical opportunities, Velva Jean turns her dreams from singing to flying and heads off to Texas to join the group that will become the Women's Airforce Service Pilots as the second World War catches hold of the country.Though this is the sequel to another novel, Velva Jean Learns to Fly can be read without having read the first book. I faced some confusion as to minor characters from Velva Jean's hometown and family but for the most part had no problem jumping in on Velva Jean's story in the middle. The first half of the book is rather unexciting, but it's rarely boring. After all, not all of history was a thrilling adventure. The second half of the novel picks up more as Velva Jean begins her training and eventually goes to Camp Davis in North Carolina. For me, seeing the prejudices and trials that the first female pilots faced there was the most interesting part of the book. I also found it surprising that, after completing months of training and courses, the WASPs were relegated to such tasks as flying fabric targets for soldiers to practice shooting at. With live bullets. That would hit the actual airplanes.Niven has also done her research on the female pilot programs of World War Two. Her writing contains descriptions of the planes flown during the time and how to control them, as well as details on military life down to what the women were given as uniforms. I did a little research on my own and found that some of the incidents Velva Jean hears of or experiences happened in real life and were recorded by the real WASPs at Camp Davis. Knowing that historical fiction is drawn from actual experiences lends even more credence to authors as they draw readers into the lives of fictional characters such as Velva Jean. The end result: Niven has written a convincing portrait of a not-so-ordinary young woman as she tries to find her place in the world as it's in the midst of near-chaos.
    LCBrooks on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Velva Jean Learns to Fly is a fun piece of chick lit with a strong, daring protagonist. Set against the backdrop of World War II, Jennifer Niven delivers a story of a young woman who leaves a bad marriage in search of a career on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. She quickly learns that you don¿t just walk onto the stage and that she will need to find steady income while she pursues her dream. Along the way Velva Jean develops an interest in the war effort and a passion for flying.
    Candacemom2two on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I never would have picked this book up on my own. I would have turned it down for review if it were offered. But it wasn't. It just came one day and I always at least try to read the books that come. Because I knew if this one sat on my shelf for long I would start to dread even trying to read it, I picked it up immediately. I figured I'd get bored and I would send it on to my mom to read and review instead. So I was shocked when I was immediately sucked into the story and how much I came to love Velva Jean Hart and her determination in all the things she set her heart on doing. This book touched me in so many ways and it had me laughing, crying, and incredibly angry at some of the things and people she had to deal with. My emotions were all over the place, but I was definitely feeling this book. I fell in love with Velva Jean. I think she's a person that we would all love to be. Even though she was afraid she still stuck with her determination in whatever she set her heart out to do. She left her safe sanctuary of a home in the NC mountains and took off to sing in the Opry in Nashville. She worked to get herself there and did everything she could possibly do, but when it didn't work out and the war came about she found her love of flying. And yes, she was afraid to get in that airplane, but her brother pushed her and once she was in the air she realized she wanted to fly that thing. And she did. She took lessons and eventually went off to school and in the end she flew pretty much every sort of plane the US military flew. And some that many men in the military wouldn't even fly. She dealt with prejudice and sabotage and watched friends die in planes, and even had some bad situations herself, but she stuck with it. And I couldn't admire her more. She had every sort of obstacle there could possibly be, but Velva Jean Hart, with her big heart, her voice of an angel and her resolve of steel, did what she felt she had to do. Maybe now your thinking that yeah, Velva Jean might be a great character, but the whole flying thing... it just sounds boring. Well, maybe it would be boring for you. I grew up flying in a small airplane, my grandfather had one and he flew from farm to farm selling livestock feed to farmers and I went with him a few times and I know the feeling of being in a small plane, but I never flew one and I never had the strong urge to. In Velva Jean Learns to Fly we get some details of flying, but there were no long descriptions and everything just seemed to go so fast. Seriously, with all that happened in this book I would think it would be some 2,000 page book and not 416. So everything that happened wasn't real lengthy which kept the pace of the book up. And it's not all about her flying. It has so much more about her life, and even some romance which I actually loved (like loved, loved, loved). And while everything wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, it was a book that really made me feel. I felt the love, the hate, the pain, the anger... I felt so much that it hurt. But it was perfect. I did not read Velva Jean Learns to Drive and this book stood just fine on it's own. But at times I was really wishing I had because I think I would have understood things just a bit more. Things happened in her past that haunt her a bit and while I got the gist of much of it, it would have been nice to know just a bit more. I'll definitely pick it up in the future because Velva Jean has become a favorite character of mine. I really hope the author continues Velva Jeans story, I don't think it's quite finished yet. But she didn't leave it with a cliffhanger or anything. It kind of felt like the perfect ending, but yet I still wish for more. I very highly recommend this book. I'm glad that I stepped out of my normal comfort zone and tried something different. It ended up being the perfect book and it made me realize that sometimes we really don't know what we'll like until we try it. Also,
    erinclark on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I just loved this book. I wish I had had a chance to read it's predecessor, 'Velva Jean Learns to Drive' but the author does a great job of filling in the blanks regarding our heroine Velva Jeans history before we meet her in her new adventures. Velva Jean is a lovable, likeable and believable character who grows from a backwoods country girl bride to a woman with amazing talents. She has come of age and she knows what she wants and will not stop until she gets it. And she can sing! The description of her training as a pilot rang very true to me. I have taken ground school and been around many airplanes as my husband owns a flight school, we have taken may cross country trips in our own plane. The author did a fantastic job of sharing what it must have been like for these young women training as pilots during WWII. They were harassed and some of their planes were sabotaged by some of the jealous male pilots in training at the same base. Unbelievable to think that that was what was happening - but I know it was true as I've read about it elsewhere.Velva jean Learns to fly is a bit funny, a bit sad, historically accurate (as far as I could tell) and thought provoking. I look forward to the next adventures of Velva Jean Hart. I highly recommend this novel.
    WillowOne on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    I really enjoyed reading this book. I particularly liked the strength and courage of the main character, Velva Jean Hart.Velva Jean has made the decision to live life on her terms and not be held down by anyone. She sets off for Nashville and the Grand Old Opry thinking that she will just ride into town, make records and sing on stage at the Opry. She find that things aren't that easy and that Nashville is a big city with many others just like her. She settles in for the long haul, meeting some very interesting people along the way. When her long, lost brother shows up, life gets even more interesting. He decides to take Velva Jean with him to learn how to fly. She finds that she loves flying and the freedom it gives. WWII breaks out and Velva decides to try and get into the WASP (Women's Air Force Service Pilot) training school. Velva Jean is accepted and goes through training to become a WASP pilot and on to ferry planes between bases with many ups and downs in the process.Well written, funny, sad, poignant. I found myself invested in several characters and where they would go and what they would do. I hope to see a sequel in the future and I will be backtracking to get the first book "Velva Jean Learns to Drive".
    revzonian on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    "Velva Jean Learns to Fly" is a fascinating journey of a young woman who had her heart set on singing, but opened herself up to an equally, if not more, exciting career - flying. Her bravery, loyalty, perseverance, and love for herself are inspiring. I sense a sequel coming, and I will read "Velva Jean Learns to Drive" in the future. I loved that VJ was not whiny, and had realistic views of the situations at hand, including seeing her ex-husband when she returned home to visit her family.
    WKinsey on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    This was a great second book in the Velma Jean series. You didn't need to read the first book to get the beauty of Velma Jeans tale.I loved the way the book blended history with Velma Jean's determination. Velma Jean is an unforgettable character ! I loved the book and have recommended it to friends.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I love this book and have given it to many of my women friends. it has a great story and tells about getting independence and self confidence. one of my favorite books of all time
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Loved this book!
    TheElizabethP More than 1 year ago
    Read per library reading club.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I loved this book almost as much as Velva Jean Learns to Drive. It picks up right where the first one left off. I found myself thinking about Velva Jean, even when I wasn't reading, and wondering what she was doing; as if she were a real person. The writing is rich and complete so you can invision it clearly. The characters are so interesting you want to know them and you don't want the story to end.
    literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
    Velva Jean Hart is tired of small town living, including a husband who is part preacher and part moonshiner. She'd been told she had a wonderful voice and a record producer actually made a record of one of her "Yellow Truck..." songs, telling her to look him up if she ever got to Nashville, Tennessee from rural Appalachia in Alluvia, North Carolina. So she sang every song she knew as she left her home all the way to the point in Tennessee where she got a flat tire. But Velva Jean is a spunky gal and managed to conquer this problem, find a place to live, and make a friend who would help until Velva Jean finally found a job. Even after those difficult challenges, in which she bore rejection after rejection, she still managed to find a place where people could enjoy her voice and zesty personality! But a record contract did not loom, especially after she was told she needed years of music experience before she'd be ready for recording. She didn't care - she just kept writing song after song after song! Life, however, changed dramatically with the breakout of WWII, and Velva Jean's brother, Johny Clay, introduces her to a flying lesson that changes her passion forever. She goes on to become a female pilot and joins a select group of women flyers carrying out secret but no less dangerous missions within America. Here the story mixes her increasing love of flying, desire to do more for the war effort, and the horror she experiences as tragedy after tragedy happen to those she loves and others she doesn't know. Some die by attack but some are killed because of human mistakes; the latter are just as devastating and Velva Jean is responsible for bringing it to the attention of those who should be doing something about it. There is much more day-by-day description of what an amazing woman Velva Jean and other women flyers like her become. It's a quick, shocking way to grow up but this plot is filled with humor and persistent dedication, the essence of Velva Jean's personality. This novel has some very slow parts but does evolve into a funny, interesting and wonderful historical fiction piece that elevates the place of women in a time when they were expected to stay home and sew for the war effort. It includes as well the respect these women flyers known as the WAFS or Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. Jennifer has depicted a slice of life in the war that few Americans know about, and Velva Jean Hart is an unforgettable, spunky gal who stands for the best women contributing to the war effort at that time! Nicely done, Ms. Niven!