Friday, September 13, 2013

New Release Review: "Rose Under Fire" by Elizabeth Wein (recommended)

[companion novel to Code Name Verity, which you absolutely have to read first]

Goodreads Summary:

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

***

[some spoilers for Code Name Verity]

It's impossible for me to discuss this book without comparing it to Code Name Verity. Both have a similar premise: young woman captured by the Nazis and living under horrific circumstances. Both center on strong friendships between female characters. (A relationship that is severely under-explored in YA/NA literature.) And both are stories of incredible bravery and desperation in the face of cruelty.

In terms of voice, this book was very different from its companion novel. In contrast to Verity's snark and wit, and Maddie's terseness, Rose's voice is almost too straightforward, though its interspersed with bits of poetry. I'm not a huge fan of poetry, though it grew on me by the end of the book.

One element that I really appreciated about Rose Under Fire was the aftermath. The story didn't end with Rose's liberation. Much of the book is devoted to Rose and her companions' re-learning how to live after their experiences in Ravensbrück. How do you regain your sense of self after that kind of experience? How do you 'tell the world' when you can't even bring yourself to speak about it? We often talk about the horrors of concentration camps, but what about the people inside them? How do you come back to being a person when, for months or years, you were treated as anything but?

[But seriously, was it really necessary to name the protagonist "Rose Justice"?]

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