Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire
By Elizabeth Wein
Published 2013 by Disney Hyperion

Rose Justice is a pretty all-American girl. She's also a pilot in World War II. One night on a relatively typical flight, she is captured by Nazis and taken to Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp. Will Rose find enough hope to keep herself alive?

Who didn't hear about this book months and months and months before its release? When I spotted the e-galley available on Netgalley, I felt it my duty as a youth librarian to spread the word to my fellow YS librarians and sent a tweet to alert them to its presence. While I was interested in reading the book myself, it was not necessarily one of my most hotly anticipated titles of the year. I may have been the only person on the planet who didn't cry buckets while reading Code Name Verity and who didn't suffer bouts of withdrawal once I finished the book. However, I could see that Wein was a talented author and I was interested in discovering more of her work. So, I joined the leagues of librarians and downloaded this title.

Unfortunately, I didn't finish it prior to its release date. However, I did read the entire thing mainly in one frenzied weekend, not wanting to tear myself away from Rose's story. Do I like this one better than Code Name Verity? I'm not sure I'd say that. Though both books feature female pilots in WWII, I find them to be radically different from each other.

One of the things I truly enjoyed about Code Name Verity was its narrative style - I thought it was clever and original and Wein really pulled it off. With this book, Wein takes a much more traditional narrative approach, though the book is divided into three parts that are each slightly different (and, of the three, I found the third part the most interesting, narrative-wise). As much as I missed the non-traditional narrative approach, I thought taking the traditional approach worked well for this story.

I did like that this story was broken into three parts - it made the story flow without any messy transitions, which I think might have bogged down or bloated the story. As I mentioned, I found the third part here the most interesting. For some reason, this part just resonated with me. Perhaps because it touched upon survivor guilt and how one continues to live after experiencing a horrific tragedy or undergoing a truly traumatic experience - those stories always seem to have special resonance with me.

I really loved Rose. It was so easy to relate to her and she was so sweet and charming and believable; I felt like she would have been my friend. Similarly, I thought Wein did a fantastic job with the entire cast of characters in this book. I really felt like I got to know Rose's new family right along with her, and I definitely shed some tears as they did their time in Ravensbruck. One of the best things historical fiction can do for me is make me want to learn more and Rose Under Fire certainly did that. Wein makes the very deliberate decision to only tell one small part of the Ravensbruck story, but her note at the end of the book made me want to learn more (it feels incredibly odd to say I want to learn more about this horrifying thing that happened, but it's true).

Once again, I think Wein's skills as an author are evident in spades here, and I am pleased to discover that she has other books I can enjoy. The writing is just lovely and engaging. My main complaint about this book is Rose's poetry - it just didn't click for me. Overall, however, I really loved this book and I can't wait to read more by Wein.

Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via NetGalley.

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