Sunday, September 8, 2013

Horrors of History: Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, Expected Release Date: September 10, 2013

*ARC provided by the publisher at ALA - Thank You!*

The saying goes that truth is often stranger than fiction, but in her most recent novel - a companion to her award winning, New York Times best-selling Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein's piece of fiction gives insight to the horrors of modern history in Rose Under Fire.

Told through journal entries, letters, and poems, this book shares the story of Rose Justice, an American girl who finished high school early so she could come to England and help with the war effort by flying planes, delivering them for the ATA (Air Transport Auxilary). She dreams of doing more and wants to be a fighter pilot, but what she wants changes quickly when she is captured by the Nazis and sent to the notorious women's concentration camp, Ravensbrück. Rose sees true bravery and finds friendship among her fellow prisoners, but how can that be enough to endure this nightmare she's trapped in?

While World War II is probably one of the most popular time periods that gets explored in historical fiction, I've never seen it looked at through this particular lens. When people think of concentration camps, of course it is right to think of the thousands of victims of genocide and the Holocaust, Rose is classified as a political prisoner. Wein has clearly done her homework with this story - the details were gruesome and left little to the imagination when showcasing extreme starvation, uninhabitable living conditions, and disgusting medical experimentation just to name a few. But Rose doesn't hide, mostly because there's nowhere to hide, but also because there is a drive in her that never felt corny or disingenuous. She felt real. She felt raw. I clutched my stomach and forced myself to keep reading because she had to keep going, too. The inclusion of facts was seamlessly woven into the fiction so it never reads like a history book but instead feels like looking in a window.

To the horror of many I know in the book/library/reading/writing world, I haven't read Code Name Verity yet. I was assured by the publisher when I got this at ALA 2013 that these are companion novels, not sequels, and since they can stand on their own, readers don't have to worry about reading them in the order they were published. You can be assured, however, that I will absolutely be revisiting Wein's extraordinary writing in Verity. If you are looking for a book that is a heartbreakingly honest look at WWII or historical fiction that sticks to reality - no over the top romances or any elements of the paranormal here - then pick up this book as soon as you can. For men and women, high schoolers and up, this is a book that demands your full attention and deserves every second of it.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Elizabeth Wein's Website
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