This is a book that not only holds up on a second reading, but also absolutely deserves a reread.
The week before Mockingjay was released in 2010, I caThis is a book that not only holds up on a second reading, but also absolutely deserves a reread.
The week before Mockingjay was released in 2010, I called around to different bookstores trying to find one that was having a midnight release. When all ten chain and indie stores said they weren't having one, I called back from a private number and, with an Eliza Doolittle meets Mary Poppins accent, asked if they were willing to sell me a copy one day in advance if I paid double. I know, I have zero book shame. But fear not, Scholastic. They wouldn't. I even went to Ralphs at midnight because I heard some supermarkets released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows early. No luck there either. That's how I ended up in front of Borders at 9:45 am saying, "Open, open, open."
I spent the next few hours in a reading frenzy. I had to switch locations every couple chapters because I looked like this:
Unsurprisingly, it's easy to miss nuance and development when you're sobbing.
Not only that, but by the time Mockingjay came out, I had to know how everything ended. Peeta or Gale? Districts or Capitol?? Life or death?! The only thing I thought while reading was, Okay, how is this going to affect the ending?
Rereading it now, minus the frenzied anticipation and expectation, I could really appreciate the story Suzanne Collins crafted. I could see the character development and why choices were made and really process what was going on instead of just inhaling it.
Something that surprised me: I really disliked Gale. I loved him the first time around and, more than that, I understood him. He wants to fight. War, to him, is the only answer and as such, there will be some unfortunate but necessary casualties. Katniss, on the other hand, can put faces and names to so many casualties already, too many by her own hand. There is no desire for it. Last weekend, I attended a going away party for my friend's younger brother, someone I've known since he was in elementary school. At some point this month, he'll be sent to Afghanistan. War, for me, suddenly has a very familiar face -- one that I'll always see as a little kid. Gale's attitude, his enthusiasm, now seems almost thoughtless. Or is it the necessary mentality of a soldier? The great thing about this book is that it keeps you thinking and even debating with yourself.
For a book that I had such expectation for, Mockingjay delivered. Of course I wanted more of certain characters and storylines (Finnick!), but the characters and the story gave all that they could give. If it's possible to feel fictional characters' blood, sweat, and tears, then you'll feel them with this book. The second reading just confirms that The Hunger Games stands alone as my favorite series.
You know the term "helicopter parent"? I'm a helicopter reader. I am ridiculously protective of my books and the characters that come to life throughYou know the term "helicopter parent"? I'm a helicopter reader. I am ridiculously protective of my books and the characters that come to life through them. Film adaptations always make me nervous because empirical data suggests a high rate of illiteracy amongst Hollywood executives. When I found out The Hunger Games, or MY FAVORITE SERIES, was getting adapted to the big screen, I put on my aviator cap and goggles and started hovering. I had already mentally cast my Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch, and Cinna, so I was obsessed with any and all casting news and how the real cast matched up to my mental cast. Aside from Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, EVERYONE else made me nervous. Miley Cyrus's boyfriend? Gale would never! Woody Harrelson?? Haymitch is a drunk, not a stoner! Josh Hutcherson? His name is longer than he is! Lenny Kravitz? Being married to Denise Huxtable does not an actor make! I analyzed every trailer and tried to tamp down my expectations. I decided to re-read the books instead so the story would be fresh in my mind for the premiere -- because obviously I was going to a midnight showing.
I really liked the movie, but the standouts were undoubtedly Katniss, Cinna, Rue, and Prim. Those actors nailed their roles. They exceeded every expectation and brought these characters to life as Suzanne Collins wrote. Lenny Kravitz WAS Cinna. Rue and Prim were even more impressive, not only because they're so young, but also because they're the emotional centers -- Prim is Katniss's heart in District 12 and Rue is Katniss's heart in the Arena. Amandla Stenberg and Willow Shields had more of a performance burden on them than, say, Liam Hemsworth because if they didn't deliver, it would've undermined Katniss's journey. At least, that's how I saw it. But those girls, those actors, delivered. I had to stop myself from bawling at the Reaping and bawling during that scene in the Games. I can't even imagine the emotional and professional high those girls feel right now, knowing all the pressure that was on them from crazy helicopter fans like myself.
And then I saw the article on Jezebel. Disgusted doesn't even cover it. Pissed isn't strong enough. When I saw Amandla Stenberg's tweet, "#spreadlove", I just got so sad that this 13, THIRTEEN year old girl had to be subject to this when she should be ecstatic. Since I don't condone meeting stupidity and ignorance with violence, let's have a chat. People who don't agree with Amandla Stenberg's casting but claim to be fans of the book: let's talk reader to reader. WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU READ?? What part of "dark brown skin" is difficult to understand, imagine, and see? I'm truly flummoxed. If you missed the description the first time around or it went over your head, I urge you to read the book again. You're not only missing the words, you're missing the point....more
I just want to start off by saying, had it not been for the Los Angeles Public Library, I would not have picked up this book. Now that I have, I wantI just want to start off by saying, had it not been for the Los Angeles Public Library, I would not have picked up this book. Now that I have, I want to buy Melina Marchetta’s entire bibliography. Just a note to Harper Collins and their draconian library division.
I shied away from reading Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road despite the glowing reviews because I don’t like books about Death, especially the death of a parent. I knew this book had a parent dealing with severe depression, but the first thing mentioned in the summary was Frankie’s newly coed school so I figured this was the Australian version of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which was fantastic. I was a bit disappointed early on to discover that Frankie Spinelli is not Frankie Landau-Banks, but this book and its protagonist have their own appeal.
Marchetta writes about depression in a way that doesn’t make the book unenjoyable or without humor. Nor is depression the main focus of the book. Ultimately, Saving Francesca is about a 16-year-old girl coming to terms with who she is while losing the usual safety nets of school, family, and familiarity. Oh, did I mention the cute boys?? I like the male characters in this book so much more than those in The Disreputable History.
Melina Marchetta... Only she could write a YA book where the main protagonists are a 21-year-old boy and his 42-year-old aunt -- and make you CARE so,Melina Marchetta... Only she could write a YA book where the main protagonists are a 21-year-old boy and his 42-year-old aunt -- and make you CARE so, so much. A slew of new characters is introduced in this book, and the fact that the majority of them are from Tom Mackee’s aunt’s world does nothing to dampen the appeal to a YA audience. The reason for this is the skill with which Marchetta writes relationships between people regardless of age or gender. Adults aren’t stock characters who exist only in relation to a teen protagonist in her books. The adults in Piper’s Son not only have their own lives, but they have their own friends. I know, crazy huh? Did we ever see Jim and Cindy Walsh just hanging out with their friends??
That’s not to say that the entire book is about the adults, just that they get equal billing and importance as we catch up with the lives of our old friends Tom, Francesca, Justine, etc. Tom refers to Francesca, Justine, Siobhan, and Tara as “the four horsewomen” and he needs them to pull him back from the brink, even though he hasn’t talked to them for the past 2 years. Siobhan is in London and “that psycho Tara Finke” is in East Timor (soooo Tara, right??) but what is distance to a group of girls with cell phones and email? I love the way Marchetta writes female relationships because girls like the four horsewomen, who unquestioningly have each other’s backs, are just as real and true as Mean Girls. I lived abroad for two years with one best friend in Atlanta and another in Los Angeles, yet nothing major happened in their lives that I didn’t know about. It was harder and a more expensive to stay in touch, but moving away doesn’t mean the end of relationships unless you’re 6 years old. We get a glimpse into the future of our four horsewomen with the relationship between Aunt Georgie and her best friend Lucia. (view spoiler)[What Lucia says to Georgie after Georgie tells her she already went maternity bra shopping with a co-worker just kills me. (hide spoiler)]
So many different aspects of relationships are explored -- not just parent-child but also stepparent-stepchild, sibling-sibling and sibling-sibling’s spouse, etc. I could go on and on about this book because I loved the characters so much and just wanted to be part of their crazy, extended family, but I’ll stop here and just say, Read. This.
One minor not-even-complaint: (view spoiler)[Jimmy Hailler was probably my favorite character in Saving Francesca and I wish there was more Jimmy in this book. Maybe that just means Marchetta is writing a Jimmy-centric book next?? I can only hope. Either way, whatever Melina Marchetta writes next, even if it's just a grocery list, I'll be reading. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I am an emotional wreck. Much like when I first read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a few years ago, I was not prepared for all the emotions thI am an emotional wreck. Much like when I first read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants a few years ago, I was not prepared for all the emotions this book brought up. You strike again, Ann Brashares! Everything in this book probably affected me more than the previous ones because I'm the same age Tibby, Carmen, Lena, and Bridget are now. And at this point in our lives, the friends we have are those we've chosen to have for the rest of our lives, so the loss of any one of them (for whatever reason) is devastating. It means you've lost a part of your future as well as your present and your past. I didn't even know this book was being planned until the day it was published so I remained spoiler-free, which is good because had I known, I may have chosen to skip this book. I'm still recovering from Sweet Valley Confidential and the carnage Francine Pascal did to my memories of Sweet Valley High. I was afraid Brashares was pulling a Pascal after the first few chapters of Sisterhood Everlasting, but she came through. Tibby, Carmen, Lena, and Bridget are in different places (literally and figuratively) and ten years have passed since Forever In Blue but unlike the characters in Sweet Valley Confidential, they're still recognizable. I still felt an emotional connection to the characters even though I hadn't read the books in years and didn't particularly feel the need to read a 5th book. At times it felt like an extended epilogue, but it was still a pleasant reunion -- one I hadn't planned but still came away feeling positive about -- with characters I once loved. ...more
What can I say about this book but faith rewarded? How do I begin to talk about a series that turned me onto a new genre?
Marchetta took me on a journeWhat can I say about this book but faith rewarded? How do I begin to talk about a series that turned me onto a new genre?
Marchetta took me on a journey through an unfamiliar genre and story landscape, through curses and the Citavita. Looking back on Finnikin, I couldn't even finish my review because I was so unused to fantasy. I was exhausted by the little I did manage to write. By the time I read Froi, I was better prepared and any exhaustion I felt was due to the emotional ride from the book.
With Quintana, I could talk about how Lucian and Perri should star in their own buddy cop show, or how being in Quintana's head seemed like the most natural place to be. I loved so many of the characters, but for me, this series comes down to two people -- Isaboe and Froi. The things that bond them are at the heart of the series. They are the faces of children of war.
In Isaboe, we see what war does to a once beloved, sheltered child. Her experiences in Sarnak and Sorel shape the fierce queen she’s become. She’s unflinching. However, sometimes that results in a harshness that had me wincing. It's how she survived on her own, but it may not be the best way to ensure her people's survival.
For Froi, it was Sir Topher who prevented him from going down an irreversible path, but that and a belief in a girl with magic, shaped the man he became. His journey of redemption -- never once forgetting what could have been -- is about overcoming all the experiences that can break you and turn you into someone you're not. I loved seeing the person Froi came to be when given love and when he gave his love in return. It was so wholehearted and pure. It was devastating to think what war did to the boy with that much heart.
One character I didn't feel much affection for was Lady Zarah. To quote the great Dionne Warwick, I got your number, hussy!
Quintana of Charyn tested the bounds of loyalty, friendship, and family, and what it meant to be Lumateran, Charynite, Queen, husband, wife, lover, and friend. It's about having faith first, like a boy with cats once did, so it can be rewarded later. I loved being in this world and I hope Marchetta revisits it again, as I know I will.
Getting PWNED should officially be changed to getting CRWLEYED.
10 minutes into this book, I texted Noelle, who is on the FIRST day of her vacation byGetting PWNED should officially be changed to getting CRWLEYED.
10 minutes into this book, I texted Noelle, who is on the FIRST day of her vacation by the way,
"If _____ ends up with _____, I'm going to lose my shit and give this ONE star!!"
It's no wonder I relate so well to notorious hothead Gracie Faltrain, right? 200 pages of tears, smiles, laughs, and sighs of contentment later, consider my ass CRWLEYED. Spirit author, I'll never doubt again!
My mental state after finishing this book can be summed up in these 4 seconds. I highly recommend this series.
"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." - José Narosky
Something Like Normal is about a 19-year-old Marine who returns home after serving in Afghanis"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." - José Narosky
Something Like Normal is about a 19-year-old Marine who returns home after serving in Afghanistan for a year. Travis Stephenson is physically intact, but after spending a year on active duty and seeing his best friend get killed, his emotional scars manifest in a form of PTSD. Travis doesn't even feel like he's home because home to him is with his fellow Marines, not his parents' house in Florida where he never lived up to his father's expectations. He's also confronted by Harper Gray, a girl whose reputation got trashed after a little white lie Travis told when they were 13 years old got out of hand.
My biggest concern before reading Something Like Normal was whether a young adult book could accurately portray Marines. One of my favorite shows, HBO's Generation Kill based on the book by Evan Wright, set the standard with its raw, unflinching portrayal of Recon Marines stationed in Iraq. In Trish Doller's hands, my initial concern turned out to be moot. To use a Brad "Iceman" Colbert-ism, this book is pretty fucking ninja.
I love it when authors write about subjects they love. When Kirsty Eagar writes about surfing, her passion for it comes across the page and temporarily makes it my passion. Trish Doller loves Marines. Her affection for them is evident in her portrayal of these young soldiers and all the research that clearly went into making sure she did justice to their depiction. Though this story doesn't take place during battle, she gives us some insight into the conditions with her descriptions of the flea bites on the soldiers' legs and the sand that would get into every orifice. However, Doller's affection for Marines doesn't mean she turns them into saints. The passage that sold me on the book happens on page 10, when Travis talks about his motivations for enlisting. He says,
I didn't have a noble purpose in joining the Marines. I didn't do it to protect American freedom and I wasn't inspired to action by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I was in grade school then, and the biggest priority in my life was any bell that signaled it was time to leave school. I enlisted mostly because I wanted to escape my dad, who'd made my life hell since I quit the football team at the end of sophomore season.
This isn't about politics or patriotism -- it's about people. And those are the stories that I care about. I care about Travis and the friends. I laughed at their nicknames for each other, like Solo, Kevlar, and Fido.
In addition to not turning them into saints, I love that she doesn't water down the dialogue by making it PC or PG. Forget soldiers, what 19-year-old male do you know who doesn't swear or say politically incorrect things? Dawson Leery doesn't count. These guys say "fuck" and they call each other "retards." And so do the guys I know. They also fuck around with girls.
This brings me to what doesn't work for me and why I'm giving the book 4 stars instead of 5. Doller's love of Marines doesn't affect her realistic portrayal of Travis, but perhaps it led her to create a perfect, unrealistic girl for him. Harper, though likable, doesn't seem believable. A guy responsible for ruining her reputation for YEARS -- to the point where even parents know about her -- comes back into town and after one token punch to the face, she starts to get over it? Maybe it's because I'm Korean and a Scorpio, but I don't get over shit that quickly, IF EVER. And if I only get ONE hit, it definitely ain't going to the face. I never sensed any real tension, even when Travis's ex-girlfriend comes into the picture. Sure, Harper gets mad but... not really. Maybe she was in love with Travis since middle school thus making it easier for her to forgive and forget, but then, that just makes me want to hit her in the face.
Still, all the other relationships in the book are so well done that my issue with Harper seems minor. Travis's developing relationship with his mother made me cry. The love and desperation the mother of a soldier feels is so palpable. I also really like the depiction of Travis's relationship with his brother, in that there isn't one. Travis's father, the ex-Green Bay Packer, raised his sons to compete against one another, often favoring one over the other. It's no surprise that the sibling relationship is contentious and broken. It also helps you understand why Travis considers his fellow Marines his true brothers.
This book will make you want to hug a Marine -- if Trish Doller hasn't gotten to them all.
It allows you a look into the life of a guy, who happens to be a soldier. Stay frosty, it comes out next week.
Well, this short story made me cry more in 15 pages than any other book I've read this year -- except for Patrick Ness's gut punches masquerading as bWell, this short story made me cry more in 15 pages than any other book I've read this year -- except for Patrick Ness's gut punches masquerading as books. This story of the Chinese-American son of a mail order bride who learns of his otherness from cruel neighborhood kids and begins to resent the source of his difference, his mother, was heartbreaking, poignant, and familiar. It reminded me of all the times my brother and I would refuse to eat with chopsticks or speak Korean, how we demanded nasty Lunchables instead of kimbap, the DELICIOUS Korean version of sushi that was packed in our lunches.
When Jack demands that his mother speak only English, she says,
“If I say ‘love,’ I feel here.” She pointed to her lips. “If I say ‘ai,’ I feel here.” She put her hand over her heart.
These two lines sum up why so many immigrants cling to their native tongue despite the protestations of their non-immigrant children.
Thanks to Flannery and Leanne for bringing this story to my attention. It's definitely worth the few minutes it'll take to read. Just be sure to have tissues handy....more
My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece takes place five years after bombs went off in London killing 62 people. The story follows the aftermath of the famMy Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece takes place five years after bombs went off in London killing 62 people. The story follows the aftermath of the family of the youngest victim, Rose, from the perspective of her now 10-year-old brother, Jamie. Jamie's parents, unable to deal with the blame and guilt they place on one another, have finally split up. Jamie and Jas, Rose's twin, move with their father out into the country. One benefit, according to their father, is to get away from Muslims. After all, Muslims killed his daughter. Another benefit is the job waiting for him, something he couldn't find in London what with all the foreigners stealing jobs. Never mind the bottle of vodka he empties everyday. Jamie goes to his new school, where he's picked on and told to "go back to London." The only person who smiles at him is Sunya, the girl wearing a hijab. But Muslims killed his sister and he's supposed to honor his father, who hates Muslims, isn't he?
A middle grade book dealing with terrorism and death? Needless to say, I had my doubts. However, Annabel Pitcher confronts issues like hate, loyalty, and loss in such a straightforward way that its simplicity belies its depth. Even more impressive, she confronts the pressure to grieve.
Jamie grieves the loss of his family and his parents' marriage, but he doesn't cry over the sister he barely remembers. How can he? He was 5 years old when she died. His parents and various therapists, though, tell him it just hasn't hit him yet. His mother once made him change a school essay on a special person from a soccer player to Rose, and the story she made him use resulted in his being teased mercilessly by the other students. Poor kid. Over 20 years later and parents still don't understand. As much as I hated Jamie's parents, I loved this storyline because I wonder how many kids who've prematurely lost parents and siblings and relatives are acting how they THINK they should instead of how they actually feel. And I wonder how many kids know that it's okay to feel... nothing. Or close to nothing. How do you mourn someone you barely know or remember? I always hear kids being told that it's okay to cry, it's okay to cry, but it's also okay not to cry.
Jamie also struggles to reconcile his father's view of evil, murderous Muslims with the bright, sunny girl who keeps extending her hand to him. Sunya, seeing Jamie's fascination with superheroes and Spiderman, claims that she's a superhero too. She proudly points to her hijab as part of her superhero costume. I loved Sunya. She's bold and fierce, loyal and kind. She doesn't shy away from her identity, even as the kids call her Curry Breath and other names.
While Jamie and Sunya's relationship is born of struggle, Jamie's relationship with his sister Jas is based purely on love. This is the relationship that made me cry. Jas is just a kid herself and she's lost her twin, but she refuses to let Jamie be hurt. She tries to do the job of two parents as best as her 15-year-old self can. Older sisters, be sure to drain the battery on your phone beforehand so you don't end up calling your mortified younger brothers.
It's sad to say that a book like this is timely and necessary, especially for a younger audience, but it is. It's also hopeful and surprising. A very strong debut by first time author Annabel Pitcher.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher.
When Flannery first recommended this book to me with the promise of Boston and baseball, my exact reaction was, "........" The opening paragraph of heWhen Flannery first recommended this book to me with the promise of Boston and baseball, my exact reaction was, "........" The opening paragraph of her review cracks me up because what I remember most about Boston is: rats. Lots and lots of rats. Since "everywhere" is too general, let me tell you 3 specific places where I saw a rat.
1. Subway (as in Eat Fresh®) 2. California Pizza Kitchen, Prudential Center 3. My dorm room
My friends refused to walk on my left because whenever I saw a rat charging out of the bushes, I'd push them out into the street. Excuse me for trying to save your life! Did no one see the episode of Little House on the Prairie where everyone in Walnut Grove nearly died of typhus?! That wasn't just a TV show, that was a PSA.
Second only to rats in Boston are Red Sox fans. The SAWX. I grew up watching sports (not baseball, as if) but nothing in my life prepared me for Red Sox Nation. I lived 5 minutes away from Fenway Park and got a very rude awakening the first (and only) time I tried to take the T after a game. My PTSD still prevents me from talking about it.
Imagine my surprise when not only did I end up finishing this book, I loved it. It reminded me that aside from the rats and the Sox, Boston was also where I first fell in love, strolled through a park at night while someone played the saxophone, and had a chocolate chip cannoli from Mike's Pastry. (Don't knock it til you've tried it! My love for Mike's has outlasted that first love.) Every so often, I need to be reminded that hope exists. I need it to wrap me in a bear hug and refuse to let go until I surrender because anything less won't work with me. Some Disney magic also helps.
My Most Excellent Year refers to the year Alejandra Perez and a 6-year-old named Hucky entered the lives of T.C. Keller and Augie Hwong. T.C. and Augie declared they were brothers in 1st grade and never looked back. T.C. had just lost his mother and he bonded with the quiet kid who was the one person who didn't look at him like he'd just lost his mother. Of course, Augie didn't stay quiet. Have you ever met a quiet Ethel Merman fan? While Augie shared his love of musicals during their weekly sleepovers, T.C. shared his love of baseball. When Alejandra (that's Alé with an é) transferred to their school freshman year and politely rejected T.C.'s offer to consider a relationship with her, while talking to Augie about musical theater, both boys were goners. Their story is told through journal entries, emails, IMs, and texts.
First, I loved that two of the main characters are minorities. This was such an issue for me growing up, and it's still an issue for me now, but it's so important to see last names like Hwong and Perez and not deal with stereotypical characterizations. Augie is the son of a Chinese immigrant mother and American-born Chinese father. His mother terrorizes the Boston theater community with her reviews for the Globe. Here's a sample of her review of Carousel:
"Nice songs to beat your wife to. Attend at your own risk."
She instilled her love of theater in Augie, but made sure to warn him about Carousel when he was 8. Alé is the daughter of diplomats and her father was the ambassador to Mexico until he accepted a position at Harvard. She's used to hobnobbing (and accidentally insulting) diplomats, actors, and (I'm assuming) Bono. Her closest friend before moving to Brookline was a Secret Service agent.
Second, I loved the fathers in this. T.C.'s dad, Ted, named after Ted Williams naturally, and Augie's dad, Craig, are such presences in their sons' lives. T.C. uses a vocabulary word in one of his journal entries and a few pages later, Ted ends up using the same word in an email to T.C.'s counselor. You can just see T.C. using it around the house with Ted, making up ridiculous sentences along the way.
Third, Augie Hwong is who I tried to get my little brother to be. Yes, the one who is now a big bad cop. I just think children, particularly boys, need a well-rounded education, especially of the musical variety. Also, I knew even back then that he was destined for a career involving weaponry so I wanted to get to him before the mouthbreathers did. Since I controlled the radio in the car (ah, the perks of being the oldest), I played a steady stream of Rent, Les Miserables, and Ragtime. (Wicked came later.) I was so proud when I heard him humming "Would you light my candle?" I was even prouder when Rent the movie came out and he went to watch it on his own.
This book had the same energy of Sorta Like a Rock Star and it was what I hoped Will Grayson Will Grayson would be. The format of journal entries and emails and texts made it an easy, fun read. You don't need to know all (or any) of the baseball and theater references to get this book. Just read a short synopsis of All About Eve so you understand one of my favorite Augie moments. I know it's not perfect, but it had so much heart that like Mary Poppins, My Most Excellent Year is practically perfect in every way.
To me, Rose Under Fire was a harder read than Verity. Verity was one of my favorite books last year. It was a heartFirst, this isn't Code Name Verity.
To me, Rose Under Fire was a harder read than Verity. Verity was one of my favorite books last year. It was a heartbreaking and beautiful story about friendship and courage set during World War II that I compulsively read in a day. However, I never forgot that it was a work of historical fiction. With Rose, even though I knew it was also a work of Elizabeth Wein's ability and imagination, it felt so much like a memoir. It was so much harder to take knowing that all these atrocities were based on actual events. It's not a quick read nor is it an easy read. The experiences of the women at Ravensbruck were so horrible and beyond imagination, it's no wonder that people at the time didn't believe the stories coming out of Europe. It's also for that reason, though, that I think a book like Rose Under Fire is so important.
Rose Justice is an eager American pilot who learned flying at the knee of her father, the owner of a flight school in Pennsylvania. She goes to England to join the Air Transport Auxiliary and assist the Allied cause. Her uncle uses his connections to get her a flying assignment to France and it is on the return back to England where she disappears. No one has a clue where she or her plane is -- because she has been captured and taken to Germany. She ends up in Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp, along with women from France, Poland, and Germany. She encounters a group of Polish women who have been nicknamed the Rabbits because they were subject to horrible experimental medical procedures. One of the Rabbits, Roza, was only 14 when she was captured by the Nazis.
What I love about Wein's writing is her ability to take historical events and facts and use them to buttress her story. It's not so much about Nazi medical experimentation as it is about Roza. And Izabela. And Aniela. And all the other women whose names Roza forces Rose to memorize in case something happens to them so that their stories, their names can be told.
This story is also about hope, when it's not that thing with feathers.
"Hope is the most treacherous thing in the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet."
It's about maintaining hope while surviving a reality that is harsher than most people can imagine. It's about surviving a place that was designed to systematically dehumanize and purge its prisoners. For Rose, her poems help keep her from becoming a schmootzich, someone whose desperation has turned her into a savage. Something else that helps Rose are her friendships with the other prisoners. It wouldn't be an Elizabeth Wein story without powerful relationships. The friendships in Rose though are different because they are born of circumstance -- horrible circumstance. It is unlikely that the prisoners would have even encountered each other in the outside world, and yet they now depend upon one another to make it through another day. Sometimes, though, the most powerful bonds are the ones forged in fire. It's what keeps you standing when hope plummets. It's a tiny strip of Cherry Soda nail polish that stubbornly clings to your toes even when your head has been shaved and your clothes stripped off.
I was a bit undone by this book. I honestly expected to finish it in a day or two, but I had to take breaks when the historical aspect overpowered the fictional. At the same time, I wanted to learn more about the very real women who inspired this story. This book is a testament to their endurance and bravery, and one that I think everyone should read.