Wednesday, September 4, 2013

ARC Review: Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
5/5 stars
Hyperion, 2013
360 pages
YA Historical
Scheduled to release September 10

Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I adored Code Name Verity, which became my favorite read of 2012. I encouarged others to read it and of course they loved it. Thus I was thrilled to discover that Wein had written a companion novel of sorts, again set during World War II but focusing on new characters. However I tried to temper my expectations because Code Name Verity was so amazing, how could anything else live up to that?

Well, this book didn't quite match my experience with CNV being a rather different tale though there are several superficial similarities. For example, both are set during WWII, focusing on young women pilots. There are even a few overlapping characters that led me to suggest you should definitely read CNV first. Both are told in journal/letters tracing an intense experience of confronting villainy up close. And both are based on real plausibilities even if not every event is exactly true.

But whereas CNV had a killer twist about halfway through that left me dying to reread the book, I don't think I could ever read Rose Under Fire again. It was such an intense read covering Rose's experience at Ravensbrück, a German concentration camp; the story of the "Rabbits", young Polish women who were experimented on by Nazis; and a peek into the Nuremberg trials with their intricate examination of how to assign blame and punishment in an attempt to get justice. I mean, I'm drained just thinking back on this book and I am a bit more nervous about recommending it, just trying to make sure the reader is careful when s/he embarks on the journey because it will wring you out.

I don't want to go to in depth about plot but there are some general themes I'd love to touch on briefly. Memory is one of the main themes explored.  One of the things about genocide is that we don't really know how many people were killed. How many people were taken from their everyday life and just killed as if that life meant nothing, as if they didn't have parents, siblings, lovers, friends, coworkers, etc. who wondered where they were and will never have an answer. Maybe the person did manage to survive but chose not to return to her original home and you will never know. Or, more probably, the person did die and the date and cause of death won't ever be known by loved ones but they will instead live forever hoping against hope that the person somehow did escape the horror. It's just heartbreaking to me especially thinking of today's current events-why can't we learn? So many lives just thrown away. I'm going to move on before I'm emotionally destroyed AGAIN.

A second element is friendship and bonding in the most horrific circumstances. Rose is taken in by the Rabbits basically without question and they share their meager resources with her just as she does what she can for them. It gave me such hope that people could still care about each other even when in situations designed to completely dehumanize them. They sacrifice so much for each other and dare too to get their names and their stories out there so the world will know. I'm not trying to go back to the memory part but I'm thinking about how every generation gets more and more removed from the Holocaust and WWII-will our children understand what happened? Or will it be something they see as happening just in the old days? Something abstract, kind of like my view of the Black Plague so many centuries ago?

I think my review kind of went off the rails...I really don't know what to say and am trying not to ramble. So for you I have included links for a few reviews below and I strongly urge you to consider giving this book a read, even if you don't tend to read historical fiction. Even if you don't usually read YA. Just give this a shot and then come talk it out with me.

Other Opinions:
A Reader of Fictions
Bananas for Books
Blood, Sweat and Books
Feminist Fiction 
Good Books and Good Wine
The Overflowing Library

30 comments:

  1. Aw, glad you loved it. <3 I loved it SO MUCH. Though, I loved it so much more than Code Name Verity :) Because of the pain and heartbreak. I just loved reading about it. Sobs. This book was perfect. I would love to read it again and again, hih :) Thank you for sharing your honest review. <3

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    1. And as I shared the pain and heartbreak made this much more difficult for me-I've told a few people IRL about it and cannot keep the emotion out of my voice. I could never read this book again and yet I can't quite stop talking about it and trying to urge everyone else to read it.

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  2. This sounds like such an emotional and difficult story but one that is important to read. I wonder how people will view the Holocaust centuries from now. I wish humanity would learn a lesson from the horrific events in our past but it doesn't seem to happen that way.

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    1. I am curious what lessons our descendants will learn about the Holocaust-will they believe it? Will they still get choked up about it the way I do? I hope eventually people will learn but I'm not always optimistic about that.

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  3. Awhh, isn't it great when the second book is just as good as the first one? So happy it delivered! :)

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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    1. I appreciated that it wasn't the same story over again-some authors do that but Wein took the plot in a completely different but still devastating direction.

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  4. I have this one, and I am excited to read it now. Sounds really good. Wonderful review.

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    1. Hope you make it through the experience alright.

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  5. I've heard some raves about this one but it still sits on my shelf. I think I need to read it!

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  6. I think this review was good - sometimes it is really hard to react to a book. Especially one like this.

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    1. I'm glad you could make some sense out of this-I just felt myself breaking down so I published what I had.

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  7. This one sounds so emotional. Glad that it was good, even if it was a bit draining at times :)

    Fantastic review!

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    1. So emotional and continuing to impact me even a week later (and I suspect beyond.)

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  8. I think I'm going to have to work up to this book! I loved Code Name Verity, but it was tough, and hearing that this one is harder makes me nervous. But I love how you talk about friendship and finding a bond of support in the most horrific circumstances. I'm also curious about how memory plays a role in this story. Lovely review.

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    1. Because of the concentration camp, this book goes to such darker places. Be careful about when and where you read it!

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  9. Sounds so good! I'm going to do a reread of Code Name Verity because I'll be going to an Elizabeth Wein book event. I like that Rose Under Fire still has some sort of friendship. I'll try to prepare myself before reading it though.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

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    1. It is *so* worth it. I love your idea of rereading CNV-I just put that on my reading schedule for November.

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  10. YES!! So happy you loved this. I'm reading it this weekend, I hope.

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    1. Did you get it read? Looking forward to your thoughts!

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  11. I'm so horrible, I DNF'd Code Name Verity, though it wasn't on purpose, it just wasn't fitting my mood, too slow paced in the beginning. I love this time period and stuff though and so many people LOVE the books, so I think I'll need to give it another try one of these days.

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    1. I thought the beginning of CNV was pretty slow and technical. I hope you'll consider giving it another try someday soon though!

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  12. This one sounds interesting... although it does sound an awful lot like Code Name Verity (which I haven't read... yet!). I got this one from ALA, and really need to get to it soon– it sounds great! :D

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    1. It's pretty different but the theme of female friendship/support is still very present and appreciated!

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  13. GAH! We're about to get teary just reading your review and thinking about CNV! So so so so glad to hear that this is a great read -- even if it's devastating too. Definitely on our list now!

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    1. I cannot emphasize how much this book made me cry and think and feel-it's quite an experience.

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  14. Oh gosh. I'm like Lauren above: I own this and am trying to psych myself up into reading it. I LOVED Code Name Verity--and I know that I will love this one too--but I'm intimidated because CNV was HARD to read. But you give it 5 stars and that is inspiring. I'll be back to read your review in full after I grow some balls and read my copy. :)

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    1. I thought this was much harder to read but so worth it-get to it Heather!

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  15. I picked up Code Name Verity after seeing rave reviews but I still haven't read it (my bad.) Love Historical fiction and YA so this sounds like a winner too.

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    1. I preferred CNV but I think both are worth reading if you can handle it.

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