Monday, March 20, 2023


Elizabeth Wein is the holder of a private pilot’s license and the owner of about a thousand maps. She is best known for her historical fiction about young women flying in World War II, including the New York Times bestselling Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire. Wein is also the author of Cobalt Squadron, a middle grade novel set in the Star Wars universe and connected to the 2017 release The Last Jedi. She lives in Scotland and holds both British and American citizenship.

Wein applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Stateless, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Done much racing?” he asked me.

His mild, curious tone caught me off guard. He didn’t sound friendly, exactly, but he had a nice voice—a husky baritone, with a sort of boyish eagerness about the way he talked that made him seem younger than he was. The American drawl had something in it of freedom and wide-open spaces that was wildly alien to my lifetime of tidy English fields and cluttered city gardens.

It was a straightforward question and, wary of getting into an argument with him, I gave him an honest answer.

“This is my first long-distance race. I did a closed course race last spring—the ‘Junior King’s Cup.’ You had to be under eighteen to take part.”

“How’d you do?”

I bit my lip, remembering. My plane in that race, not the Cadet I was flying now, had been hopelessly outclassed, and I had been far too cautious about the steep turns. Oh, well—it wasn’t a secret. “I came eighteenth out of twenty-one. And two of the planes I beat had engine trouble and didn’t finish. So really I came second to last.”

“How’d you qualify for this race, then?”

“Sent in an application, as it said to do in the papers,” I answered defensively. “I got a recommendation from my instructor, and put down the number of hours I’ve flown and the three languages I speak, and drummed up sponsorship, and wrote an essay: Why this would be a good experience for me. Why I want to succeed in a personal achievement that will also be a British achievement. Why peace and cooperation in Europe matter to me.”

I didn’t mention my passport.
If browsers open your book to page 69, would they get a good (or an inaccurate) idea of the whole work?

I want to say: no idea at all – and also – pefect.

Basically, it depends on whether you’re looking for plot or character.

Page 69 tells you very little about the plot of Stateless except that air racing is involved, and – in that teaser of a final sentence – that the narrator’s passport may be an issue. But the excerpt doesn’t tell you the names of anyone in the race, or where it’s taking place, or what the point of it is. It doesn’t even tell you the speakers’ names. It certainly doesn’t tell you that two hours earlier one of them witnessed a murder, and the other was the target of a second murder attempt.

But the two nameless speakers on this page are the two main characters in the book, and their distrust of each other, turning to mutual admiration, is key to the story; and also, I think that this vignette gives you a really lovely little taste of what these two characters are like, in a quiet moment, just as they’re getting to know each other.

I often say: plot is character, character is plot. In the perfection of the way these characters are captured on page 69 of Stateless, the seeds of the plot are sown. So although this page doesn’t tell you anything about the action or adventure of the novel, it does a good job of giving you a taste of the book’s flavor.
Visit Elizabeth Wein's website.

The Page 69 Test: Black Dove, White Raven.

The Page 69 Test: The Pearl Thief.

My Book, The Movie: Stateless.

--Marshal Zeringue