Friday, January 15, 2016

ARC Review: American Ace

Title: American Ace
Author: Marilyn Nelson
Publisher: Dial Books
Publication Date: January 12, 2016
Source: Penguin Teen for Review
This riveting novel in verse, perfect for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Toni Morrison, explores American history and race through the eyes of a teenage boy embracing his newfound identity.

Connor’s grandmother leaves his dad a letter when she dies, and the letter’s confession shakes their tight-knit Italian-American family: The man who raised Dad is not his birth father.

But the only clues to this birth father’s identity are a class ring and a pair of pilot’s wings. And so Connor takes it upon himself to investigate—a pursuit that becomes even more pressing when Dad is hospitalized after a stroke. What Connor discovers will lead him and his father to a new, richer understanding of race, identity, and each other.


My Review

American Ace is the first book that I've read by National Book Award Finalist, Marilyn Nelson, and I'm pretty sure that it won't be my last. I didn't know what to expect when this book showed up on my doorstep, but what I got was a book that I know will stick with me for the rest of my life because it's full of life and history.

Told in a poetic-like prose, American Ace tells the story of a teenager named Connor Bianchini. Connor has grown up believing that he's half Italian-American and half Irish-America. He's very close to his father's side of the family, and they all help run the family-owned Italian restaurant. Connor's world changes after his grandmother passes away. He notices changes in his father, and he doesn't think that it's just grief. He soon finds out that his grandfather, the man who raised his father, is not a blood relative. His father was adopted, and he now has clues - a class ring and a pair of pilot's wings - to help figure out their new genetic identity.

I loved how Ms. Nelson approached identity in American Ace. Following Connor's journey is an interesting ride, and it's one that readers will remember for a long time to come. It's full of questions, but it's also full of answers. Not only will readers find out about Connor and his father's journey to discover who they are, but they will learn a great deal about history, particularly the Tuskegee Airmen.

The most important part of the book is how Connor feels. To him, it doesn't matter that things in his life are changing. He embraces the change and wants to learn as much as he can. I loved that. I'm sure that we all want to know who we are and where we come from, and Connor takes it upon himself to find that out for his father. In the end, he finds out a lot about a whole group of people, instead of the one person who gave him his DNA.

Themes included in this book are family, racial identity, and personal identity. There are moments that show you just how strong the bond of a family is, and there are moments in the book that show you how just one new piece of information can change your whole outlook on life.

American Ace isn't a book I would have picked up on my own, and I'm very grateful that Penguin sent it to me. I enjoyed the historical aspects, and I also enjoyed Connor's story. I would recommend American Ace to middle grade and YA readers. I would also recommend this title to teachers and school librarians. I think it would be a great book for kids to read to learn about WWII and the Tuskegee Airmen.

Marilyn Nelson is the author of many acclaimed books for young people and adults, including CARVER: A LIFE IN POEMS, a Newbery Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and A WREATH FOR EMMETT TILL, a Printz Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Honor Book. She also translated THE LADDER, a picture book by Halfdan Rasmussen. She lives in East Haddam, Connecticut.

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