Book Review: Velva Jean Learns to Fly by Jennifer Niven

Title: Velva Jean Learns to Fly
Author: Jennifer Niven
Details: Paperback, 416 pgs.
Published: August 30th, 2011 by Plume
Reading Level: Adult (though works as a crossover YA since the MC is quite young and there’s no inappropriate material.)
Source: Publisher


After Pearl Harbor, Velva Jean signs up for service and gets her wings, risking her life-and her heart.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.

I know this isn’t a book many of you would normally pick up, but please, please stay with me here.  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, I think this book is considered adult but it would definitely work as a YA.  Velva Jean is on her own and has gone through much more then most girls of 19, but it would still be a book appropriate and appreciated by girls of any age.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes.  All opinions expressed are my own and I was not paid or influenced in any way.  
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  1. I’ve never heard of this book before but your review certainly makes me want to pick it up. I just love when a book takes you by surprise :)

    Great review! 😀

  2. I can’t thank you enough for this absolutely beautiful review of my book, Velva Jean Learns to Fly. I was just sitting here working away on the sequel (which will be out next summer), and feeling the jitters one usually feels the night before a book is released (Learns to Fly is officially on shelves tomorrow). And I came across your review. You have made my week! Thank you SO much! I can’t tell you how much your words mean to me. I will make sure you get an early copy of the next Velva Jean adventure!

  3. I don’t think I would have ever heard of, let alone thought of picking this book up, had you not reviewed it. I’m still not exactly sure if Velva Jean would be something I’d read, but if I were to see it in the store, I think I’d really consider grabbing it.

    If I actually gave it a shot, I have no doubt that I’d enjoy it. Great review, as always, Candace.

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