Two of the best Young Adult novels I’ve read recently are both set in World War II: The War that Saved my Life and Code Name Verity.
Both are worth reading, no matter your age, for a different perspective on the war which is so often the subject of novelists today.
Published in 2015, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War that Saved my Life is the story of two children raised in a tiny London third floor room by a mother uninterested in them.
Indeed, Ada and Jamie’s mother is more interested in hurting them than caring for them when the story opens.
Like many children, they were evacuated when the war began in 1939.
But Ada, age unknown to her at the start of the story, is crippled and has been hidden away since birth. The only world she knows is what she can see outside her window. Her younger brother Jamie, maybe six, has run wild for years and is only eligible to be evacuated because his mother sent him to school.
Mam planned to keep Ada locked away, but through extraordinary effort, Ada manages to join Jamie on his train trip to a new world for both of them in Kent (the southeastern corner of England).
This satisfying story gives us rural England as the war begins. It allows us to see the effects on a grieving young woman and her village when they’re forced to accept these strange children. And over the course of the story, Ada finally blooms into life. The war truly does save her.
Horses, spies, food and a prickly guardian provide a wholesome atmosphere that nearly ends when . . .
I read it in one night and am so glad I did.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is one of the best books, hands down, I’ve read in years.
I picked it up from the library because of the glorious back cover endorsements but when I tried to read the first chapter, had trouble getting into it. I set it aside but then remembered those endorsements and took it with me on a trip.
After a couple chapters, I was engrossed from San Francisco all the way to Chicago, just finishing it as the plane landed.
It’s the story of two women in the early days of World War II. Verity, a spy landed in behind the lines in France and picked up almost immediately, and her pilot friend Rose trying desperately to make sense of what happened to the smart, talented woman.
Verity spends the book writing her confession for the Gestapo. It’s a tale of derring-do and bravado, but with the knowledge that her life will only remain hers as long as she writes. When the end comes, Rose picks up the tale.
This one twists and turns and had me laughing and crying. The flight attendant paused to look at me more than once as I read it!
And as soon as I finished, I turned back to page one to reread and figure out how Wein told such a marvelous tale. I read it the second time that night at the hotel.
With both these books, we’re given the reality of war without the grotesque details so many stories include. Our heroines are clever, wily women and a girl who want to do the right thing while they struggle in a world that makes no sense and wants to kill them.
Entertaining, witty, enlightening and fun, you and your tweens will not be disappointed by The War that Saved my Life or Code Name Verity.
2 great WWI tales: Code Name Verity and The War that Saved my Life Click to Tweet
Derring-do, bravado and WWII YA books worth reading for all Click to Tweet
Michelle Ule is the author of five historical romances and has recently completed a WWI www.michelleule.com