Wednesday, August 28, 2013

ARC review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

While everyone was lauding Code Name Verity last year, I have to start right off the bat by saying that I didn't connect with it. The book was difficult for me to follow, I think because of all the military jargon. I didn't feel anything for the characters despite their grave circumstances, mostly because I felt like I wasn't really inside the story, I was sort of hovering around the outskirts of it.When many people found themselves sobbing by the end, I felt nothing. And I'm usually a crier. Don't get me wrong, I know what a brilliant and important book Code Name Verity is; I just didn't personally connect with it the way I was hoping I would.

Needless to say, I was nervous (and maybe a little hesitant) to tackle Rose Under Fire, a companion novel to Code Name Verity. But the premise of the story drew me in and I knew I had to give it a go. 

Rose Justice is a young American ATA pilot and a budding poet. While flying from France to England, Rose is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, a women's concentration camp. Despite Rose's grave circumstances, she manages to find loyalty, friendship, and hope with her fellow prisoners known as the Rabbits, on which the Nazis have performed horrific medical experiments. But hope in a concentration camp isn't the same thing as hope when you're free, as Rose so eloquently puts in her poem "Kite Flying":

Hope has no feathers.
Hope takes flight
Tethered with twine
like a tattered kite,
slave to the wind's 
capricious drift,
eager to soar
but needing a lift.

There's more to that poem, but I'll let you read the rest for yourself. What I especially love about many of Rose's poems is that she uses other poems as inspiration, a mentor-text if you will. In "Kite Flying" Rose uses Emily Dickinson's famous "Hope is the thing with feathers" poem as her muse. 

Throughout the story Rose's poetry is what sustains her and her fellow prisoners and even keeps them alive on a few occasions. I think this poetry connection is what immediately allowed me to feel for Rose as the protagonist when I couldn't feel for the characters in Code Name Verity. And this is a very different story than Wein's first novel. But if you think it will be impossible to love Rose Under Fire as much as Code Name Verity, you would be wrong. This book is equally as compelling, both emotionally and intellectually. And reading about the horrors Rose and especially her fellow prisoners had to endure at the hand of their captors, was both heartbreaking and hopeful, knowing that despite the inhumanity, there was still kindness and hope to be found -- eager to soar, but needing a lift.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Expected Publication: September 10, 2013
Publisher: Hyperion
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: ARC received at ALA

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