Friday, March 11, 2016

American Ace

American Ace. Marilyn Nelson. 2016. 128 pages. [Source: Library]

American Ace is a verse novel about a "white" (Italian/Italian-American) family learning a secret, unraveling a decades-old mystery, and in the process learning more about history (specifically World War II and the role of the Tuskegee Airmen) and themselves. The secret is revealed by Connor's father on the anniversary of the death of his mother--Connor's grandmother. Connor's grandfather wasn't his biological grandfather.

Connor's grandfather is a mystery to be unraveled. They have a ring (with a year and initials); they have pilot's wings; they have a nickname, "Ace." During this research process--some time spent at the library--they learn two things: he attended a Historically Black College and University, and, that he was a Tuskegee Airmen. In other words, their "white" family has some African-American genes mixed in. The book is about the family processing this information--as individuals, as a whole family.

The book is contemporary. Connor is your "typical" teenager excited about getting his driver's license, interested in girls and dating, having a fair amount of family issues to sort through. The family issues in this book are the family's secret and what it may mean, and, his father's health--physical and emotional.

The last section (or possibly last two sections?) of the book focus almost exclusively on the Tuskagee airmen, and on packing as much information as possible into the poems of this verse novel. You might say it is a bit fact-heavy at the end. But I personally didn't mind these details.

I struggled with this one. I struggled with the narrative voice. I struggled with connecting with the characters. It isn't that I didn't like them or that I actively disliked them. The characterization just didn't work for me personally. The characters didn't feel fleshed-out and living to me. I struggled with the fact that it is a verse novel. Perhaps the form of this one kept me from really connecting with the characters like I feel I should have in theory? There was just too much disconnect for me to really care about the book.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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