The Ack Ack Girl
The year is 1940 and the period highly volatile as the Germans bombed London and other cities killing thousands if not more people in cold blood. Everyone grows tense as we experience what happens a family must hunker down the basement of their home, sitting on the floor when the unexpected happens and their entire world changes. The German bomb exploded, and you can feel the vibrations, the building and roof collapsing as the Gordon family must find a way to get out beneath the layer of dirt, grime and glass to save themselves and the life of their grandmother. Ava Armstrong and her friend Penny whose family she is with must find a way to get help for her grandmother whose leg or ankle might be broken. Ava is a close friend, and this family is now homeless and what follows is a story that will send you back to WWII, witnessing the carnage and understanding why goth Penny and Ava decided to join one of the Auxiliary services which included the ATS and do their part for the war effort.
Ava is more than a good friend and a character that you will not forget. Glad that she survived the bombing and the explosion that occurred sounded from across the river blocks away from the basement where they were. The city would never be the same and the people living in London, many were killed or left homeless.
Ava and Penny talked alone, and both made life changing decisions that would affect their families and endanger their lives. From 1941 all unmarried British women, ages 20-30 were maintained to join one of the auxiliary services. That included the ATS. One of the most dangerous and exciting ATS roles was to pass the strenuous requirement for Ack Ack duty manning the Anti-Aircraft guns known for their distinctive ack ack sound as they fired. Both Ava and Penny passed in different areas and the idea to use these women in gun crews changed the way this war was fought. They could not operate deadly, weapons but the Ack Ack Girls worked as part of the mixed-gender squads where men would load and fire the weapons along with the support of their brave women. The three main roles as author Chris Karlsen related were Spotters who used binoculars to find the enemy planes, Ranger-Finding teams who calculated the distance a gun shell would have to travel to hit the target and Predictor teams who worked out the length of the fuse necessary to make sure the shell exploded at the right height.
Ava was chosen for this type of position and here is where her intelligence, quick thinking and training you will learn helped to save lives.Ava’s mother, Livvie invited them into her home and friendships began. Penny and Ava made plans to join up and one would fly military planes from the production factories to the factories where armaments were installed, and Ava wanted something more dangerous. The har part was telling their parents their choices and joining the ATS and enduring the training is what Ava does and Penny explained her course of action too. But first she learned of the death of the librarian that she worked for and things from this point changed. “The attack has taken on an even deadlier turn. The sky is black with planes now. They’ve blotted out the moon.” This was a report a reporter who was coughing tried to impart. “The city is aflame. Imagine witnessing this horror. Hatred was within them all and how could they not want to help. Penny went to her training center and tests, both written and physical. Then she would take an aptitude test and get her assignment and duties. She was reassigned to the ATA and is learning to fly planes. She would fly Spitfire and Hurricane fighters and bomber, in addition to cargo. Ava’s job was not the same as she was at the start doing paperwork but that would soon change. Meeting the Major Kirby and learning what her roles might be as the ATS explained the duties females can perform instead of men. One of their new jobs would be to provide battery units to the Anti-aircraft Command of the Royal Artillery. After going over her aptitude tests were the highest in mechanical and optical problem solving. This was vital a d necessary for performing the range-finding calculations or working the Predictor. Other positions were available, and Ava would soon learn just how difficult and dangerous this job would be when the fighting was not simulated, tests do not practice and relying on her teammates vital. Her first encounter would someone was not exactly as planned as she bumped into Chris Fairfield and sparks began to fly. Throughout the novel we meet many people that would impact her life like Sergeant Truwett, Sergeant Fitzsimmons and others who would oversee their training, expect perfection and teach them the art of teamwork. Each piece of equipment was explained, shown and described. Timed tests, practice and no time to rethink her training and that of others would finally send them into battle with the Germans. Meeting Chris was a life changer, Kitty her new best friend met Dennis and their romances started off and as you get to know Chris you will realize just how much he cares for Ava even after their first encounter. Kitty and Dennis form a relationship too, but danger follows, fears are at the highest and not everything goes smoothly.
Training ended and now the real work begins as the author takes us inside the front lines where battles are won, lives are lost, and teams face changes. Many of the women find themselves transferred to different units. Ava and Kitty seem to be at the top of their mark and thinks get more dangerous each time they are sent to fight the Germans. Even their training center is not safe, and lives are lost there, and damage is done. Several of the girls were moved from one team to another. A woman named Vera and one everyone called Teddi moved from B-squad to Ava’s team. The fire in their eyes and their talks let the reader realize just how determined they were to take down the enemies knowing they destroyed cities, lives and bombing raids. Kitty expresses her hate and wants to destroy them. Chris is always on Ava’s mind. Starting on Spotter detail and then then what happens when Joan has a problem and Ava must take over making the adjustments. Joan tells her story, and it is heartbreaking and what happens next changes it for her. Ava and Kitty must learn their final assignments and throughout the novel you endure the strain, the battles, feel the pain and then the unthinkable happens. After Chris’s uncle allows Ava to go home to see her family, he and her mother fall into a relationship and things change from that point for everyone. The unthinkable happens and Chris’s plane goes down and he becomes a prisoner of war having to deal with the cruelty of the Germans as Ava has no idea if he is alive or dead and is going through the motions, but he is forever on her mind. Not knowing is worse than knowing the truth until things change for everyone. If he gets found and saved how will he feel about her? What about her mother and his uncle? How will she feel if they make it permanent? As a Wing Commander the Russians think they can get money for his release as a ransom? The ending will shock readers and you will get to know many other characters that will endear you to them as Ava faces off with the enemy, hopes that Chris will come back to her and the startling revelation at the end will make you proud of the job and the work of the ACK ACK Girls.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews