I think I’d seen mentions of Higher, Further, Faster (Young Adult 249 pages) by Liza Palmer somewhere on the internet recently so I picked it up while at the bookstore last week. I started it and finished it immediately upon my return home.
“On her first day at the United States Air Force Academy, Carol Danvers is told: Let yourself learn. If only it were that simple – as defiant as she is driven, Carol has never quite adhered to the rules. All she’s ever wanted is to fly: why would she be dissuaded by the fact that in the USAF, female fighter pilots don’t exist? But beneath Carol’s swagger lurks a persistent fear that she is never quite enough. At first, USAFA appears to agree, overwhelming Carol with a rigorous schedule, demanding officers, and the looming possibility of joining the elite Flying Falcons program that has never counted a woman among their roster. Then she forms a friendship with fellow would-be pilot Maria Rambeau, and what once seemed impossible becomes tantalizingly within reach for them both. Will Carol and Maria achieve their dream in the face of constant challenge? And at what cost?”
This novel happens before the events in the movie, Captain Marvel, which I reviewed back in March 2019. Even so, this book can absolutely stand alone outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I think right now, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would read this book without having any knowledge of the MCU. I did send a copy of the book off to a friend who is travelling the world right now and unlikely to have seen the movie so we’ll see if there are any unique thoughts about it from that perspective.
This book is very rare, in the sense that there is absolutely zero romantic subplot. I’m sure there are those who would disagree with me because of who the main characters are and maybe those who are desperate for positive female/female representation could make a case that “omg, they were ROOMMATES”. For me? I saw a very realistic story about two women who both wanted to fly more than anything and that was their true passion. This was a story about following your dreams, making friends, and succeeding when all the odds are stacked against you through hard work and dedication. For me, seeing a story about passion without sex was huge, as this shows that passion does not equal sex and sex does not equal love.
I don’t know how accurate the Air Force training portions are but I read this book knowing that Carol and Maria would have been in training back in the early 1980s, which would likely have been completely different from anything trainees would be likely to experience today. I also don’t know enough about planes and plane timelines to judge whether the aircraft mentioned would be viable for the time this novel takes place. With that said, it didn’t matter to me because the information about the training and the flying felt like it should be right. The author established solid believability in the world-building and that’s the important part for a book like this.
I really like Carol and Maria’s friendship in this book and I liked how the obstacles put in front of both of them just made them determined to find a way to earn their place in the world of flying. I related a lot to Carol’s perspective on her surroundings and it was very easy to see her passion for flying in everything she does. The same goes for Maria. They are both so absolutely in love with flying that not flying is unfathomable to both of them. The way they work around getting to touch a special aircraft or how Carol listens to the sound of distant engines and how much of a ritual that is for her.
Carol’s character really comes through in this story, even in tiny moments throughout the story. At one point, she protects a journal which isn’t hers. She defends people who aren’t present to defend themselves. She sticks up for everyone and works to build a cohesive team, even though she could have chosen to treat those who treated her badly the same way. She’s inclusive, hard-working, dedicated, and loyal, which are all traits that make really good people. I admire her character in this story and I think this novel sets a very positive example of what leadership and passion look like.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book and will happily read it again in the future. I’m happy I purchased it and I probably rate it as a high three on my rating scale.
Works cited: Palmer, Liza. Higher, Further, Faster. New York: Marvel Press, 2019.