2014: 22. Rose Under Fire 

"I just got back from Celia Forester's funeral.  I'm supposed to be writing up an official report for the Tempest she flew into the ground, since she's obviously not going to write it herself and I saw it happen."

Rose Under Fire, Elizabeth Wein

This is the second book written by the authors of one of my favorite books of 2013, Code Name Verity.  If by chance you haven't read it - and you like YA, or historical novels, or suspense novels, or novels at all, do go read Verity.  Alas, I read it during my non-blogging days, so can't link to a review (what a good excuse to go buy a copy and re-read!).  Anyway, like Verity, this is a book about young girls during World War II - in fact, a few minor characters from Verity cameo in this book, so it's almost a sequel of sorts.  

Here we following the story of Rose Justice, a pilot and amateur poet who works ferrying planes around England (women really did this, so that men could do the war flying), and ends up being captured and sent to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp.  

So, um, I have a lot of thoughts about this book.  It is very well written and fast paced and all that - Wein is a good writer.  But where Verity was unputdownable, I had a lot of issues with Rose.  First of all, it's not great fun to read about about torture at a concentration camp (particularly when you are recovering from cancer surgery - I read this a while ago).  But, secondly, I have some issues with Rose the character.  She's an American, and a woman pilot, and an amateur poet - good enough (allegedly, though her poems as presented didn't do much for me) to be published at the end.  And she happens to be allowed to fly one mission into Europe, and happens to get captured and put in the camp.  And, MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW, to survive.  I don't know - its seemed both a huge stretch - her character seemed majorly implausible, and I think, a little offensive.  First, do we even need to be reading any books written by modern Americans about how bad concentration camps were? And if we do, should we really be reading about an American who somehow landed there? Even if you want to make the point, oh, they weren't all Jews, were there really any American women (and I'm talking cornfed Ohio girls, not someone who technically had a U.S. passport).  I appreciate that Wein did a lot of research about Ravensbruck prison, and I do think she appropriately captured how terrible it was - and the suffering of other women there, but also their bravery and camaraderie.  But to make our entry point a young American - even in YA, which is necesserily more didactic, just sat ill with me. 

I don't know - I did like parts of this quite a bit - especially when Rose was recovering from her trauma, and trying, for example, to build up the courage to testify against the Germans.  Or her friends in the camp (the "rabbits"), or even the ambiguity at the end about who was a victim and who was a bad guy.  But the whole premise put a bad taste in my mouth - especially given Rose's Mary Sue tendencies.  Read Verity instead - that you won't regret. 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017