Wind, Sand, and Stars was written for an adult audience, especially for the generation that had come of age right after World War I. Yet it has many elements of plot, setting, and theme that have traditionally appealed to young adult readers. The central character is a young man exploring the world. His occupation is glamorous and dangerous, open only to a brave, skilled few. The work pits his courage and his strength against the elements of nature. He overcomes obstacles and tastes triumphs in brave solitude. He finds simple, deep friendships among his peers. He is unrestricted by routine. He is raw material ready for shaping by his own will or some higher power. Founded in fact, Saint-Exupéry’s story is nevertheless like an epic or a novel because it tells how a hero is made. The author is not a self-aggrandizer, but he relates his life with conventions that writers since Homer have used to communicate direction and purpose in a young person’s life.

Each chapter builds upon a dramatic event that tests one’s mettle, courage, and convictions. Sometimes this man is Saint-Exupéry, sometimes a fellow flier, sometimes a chance acquaintance. The enigmatic Guillaumet crash-landed in the isolated Andes mountains and, badly injured, walked down a mountain. On the Argentine coastline, Saint-Exupéry battled a clear-air cyclone that tried to blow his plane out to sea. With his mechanic, Saint-Exupéry survived several days and nights in the Sahara after their aircraft ran out of fuel. He describes how, as the Fascists battled Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, a stoic sergeant prepared to lead a suicidal patrol against superior forces.

Whoever is the hero of the moment, Saint-Exupéry the writer is anxious to get beyond the physical drama to the spiritual importance of the events. Therefore, he recounts dramatic events straightforwardly, in an almost deadpan manner. He has no need to invent details, embellish the tension, or hyperbolize the...

(The entire section is 808 words.)