Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose under Fire

I absolutely LOVED Code Name Verity, so I had a feeling that I would enjoy this book too.  Enjoy feels like a wrong word to use, though, considering all the terrible things that happen.  The story is narrated by young Rose Justice, an American ATA pilot who got lost, landed in the wrong airfield, and ended up a Nazi prisoner in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.  Though there was so much more to the Holocaust than Rose ever could have seen or experienced in her abbreviated stay in the one small portion of that one particular women’s camp, the horrors still added up rather quickly.  I was especially sickened to hear the details behind the medical experiments that were done on the “Ravensbrück Rabbits.”  I think readers who haven’t yet learned about the Nazi doctors and the Nuremburg Trials may find these details especially disturbing, since I found it hard to listen to even though I already knew a lot of what had been done.  Despite the darkness she revealed, though, I found it heartening that Wein managed to shine a spotlight on the friendship, generosity, and hope that helped so many people survive against the odds.

Living With Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles

Living with Jackie Chan

I usually hate admitting when something makes me feel this stupid, but I just have to share this crazy story with y’all.  I got about halfway through Living With Jackie Chan and actually got into a conversation with a friend about how much I love Jo Knowles’ books before I realized this was a companion book to Jumping Off Swings!  Seriously…  I was telling her about how Jumping Off Swings affected me so much that I literally could not put the book down before I finished it, woke my husband up with my crying, and then had to go in and cuddle with my sleeping son [at 2am] before I could calm down enough to sleep.  (I was pregnant for my daughter at the time, so I guess you can blame some of it on the hormones too!)  When I started to describe this story, I stopped talking mid-sentence and said, “OH MY GOD!  Josh is the guy from the first book!”  Yeah…  I’m quick like that!  Maybe it wasn’t mentioned in the book review I read when I ordered this book?  And, I know I didn’t read the book flap before starting to read the book when I picked it up off the shelf…  But, still, I loved Jumping Off Swings so much that it’s hard to believe I forgot the character names and also didn’t put two and two together when I first started this story.  /sigh

Living With Jackie Chan is a continuation of Josh’s story.  After getting Ellie pregnant, he feels like a horrible person and finds it difficult to move on with his life.  His Uncle Larry agrees to let Josh live with him while he finishes high school.  And, while starting over in a new city with a “clean slate” seems like a good idea, Josh finds it impossible to embrace this fresh start.  Even if no one at the new school knows what happened last year, HE knows what he did and can’t manage to forgive himself.  Fortunately, Uncle Larry convinces Josh to help out with his karate classes at the local YMCA — which provides Josh with a positive new focus and a chance to make a new friend, Stella.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park takes place in 1986, so it is technically “historical fiction” to the teens I serve today…  I mean, they weren’t even BORN yet!  (Wow, that makes me feel old!)  Though it was fun to reminisce about big hair, bold makeup, “Walkman” tape players, and phones on a cord, this story was not a fluffy look back on the 80s.  It was a touching story about how one person can make all the difference when the whole world seems to be against you.  About how halting conversations about shared interests, like comic books and music, can open the door to friendship.  And about how a barely-there friendship can blossom and turn into love.  Park’s family is “Leave it to Beaver” perfect, and he is relatively popular at school.  Eleanor’s home life is horrid and the kids at school take great pleasure in bullying her about her clothes, weight, and unruly red hair.  And yet, Park can’t help himself.  He doesn’t care what everyone else thinks about “his” Eleanor.  He only knows he will do whatever it takes to try and make her happy.

To be completely honest, there was only one thing I didn’t like about this book… It ended!  Seriously, though, I *really* hope that the ending was not just a “form your own opinion about what happened” thing but, instead, left it open for a sequel.  A girl can hope, right?!?  😉

Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen

Under the jeweled sky

As the only child of a doctor and his unhappy wife, Sophie Schofield is a lonely child trying to cope with her father’s absence during World War II and her mother’s cold hatred.  When her father is demobilized, the family gets a chance to move to India.  Sophie and her father hope that a new environment will improve their lives and brighten their hopes for the future.  In the Maharaja’s lush palace, Sophie becomes part of a world she could only imagine, but she remains lonely until a chance meeting with young Jagaan Ramakrishnan, the son of one of the king’s bearers.  Under the backdrop of India’s independence and partition, the two become fast friends, but Sophie knows that if her parents learn of the growing closeness of these two young people from very different worlds, tragedy will follow.

This is a beautiful story of two very different worlds that collide with devastating consequences.  When, as an adult, Sophie returns to India, she finds it difficult to fit into the constricted world of her husband’s colleagues and learns too late that Jag has not forgotten her.