Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

“Hope is the most treacherous thing the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet. But as long as you’re being lifted, don’t worry about plummeting”  -Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire

Rose Under Fire, written by Elizabeth Wein, is a historical fiction novel about Rose Justice, an Air Transport Auxiliary pilot for the Royal Air Force. She along with other pilots, Maddie, and Felicyta, carry out their duties of delivering airplanes for the RAF.

However, one day, while delivering a Spitfire from Camp Los Angeles in France, to England, Rose encounters a V1-flying bomb, a pilotless plane carrying a bomb, heading towards Paris. She prevents the attack, but it takes her off course over Germany.

After flying over German territory aimlessly for a while, two Luftwaffe pilots spot Rose’s Spitfire and cornered her to follow them inside Germany. Rose is taken in as a political prisoner and sent to Ravensbrück Concentration camp, a place where she would learn to survive the horrors of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany.

The book is divided into three parts and it is written from Rose’s point-of-view. It is a companion to Code name Verity, but it can be read as a standalone book. I loved the writing style of the author and the characters in this book. Wein did a wonderful job in details and in staying true to most of the historical facts.

Since most of the story is set in where Rose is a prisoner in Ravensbück, there are some parts where it is graphic such as describing the experiments the Rabbits went through in Block 32. There are curse words in this book (more f-words than a PG-13 movie, but less than an R-rated movie), but it’s expected since it’s set during World War II.

If you’re tired reading YA books with romance or you’re not interested in romance, this book might be great for you. There is a little romance, only a tiny bit when Rose was dating Nick before she got arrested and brief instances where Rose would write poems about Nick, but that’s it. I loved that the author focused on the strong friendships Rose made at Ravensbrück instead of her relationship with Nick.

I don’t read historical fiction often, but after doing a quick Google search on ‘YA books without romance’, I discovered this book. It took me a while to read since I recently started reading novels again, but overall a great read that might make you a bit teary-eyed.

-Ash A.

*Note: Recommended reading age: 14+ for mature themes, curse words, graphic/disturbing images, and violence.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman

Scottsboro by Ellen Feldman is a historical fiction novel that tells the story of the Scottsboro boys, mainly through the eyes of a fictional reporter. The Scottsboro boys were accused of raping two white girls in 1931, towards the beginning of the Great Depression. There was hardly any evidence against them, and it was fairly obvious that the girls had accused the boys of rape because they were afraid of going to jail for illegally being on the train that they had been found on. Despite the lack of evidence, the state of Alabama was convinced of their guilt, and the boys were sentenced to the electric chair. Their deaths were put on hold because of more than one trial, as the Communist Party and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons tried to help them get free.

The book, as mentioned earlier, is mainly told through the eyes of a reporter, so although it is about the trials, it also includes a lot of her personal life. It also includes the point of view of one of the two girls who accused the boys of raping her.

I thought the book was very well written, and I especially liked the fact that the author mainly centers on the reporter. This parallels the protagonist’s thoughts that often, people forgot about the boys and focused more on the witnesses or the trial. Yes, there were many who thought (especially outside the South) that their sentences were evidence of racism, but no one really remembered the victims – they were more symbols than people, in a way. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in historical or realistic fiction.

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Image result for the darkest hour caroline tung richmondI’m normally not a huge fan of historical fiction. Although, I am okay with reading a few alternate histories, but not constantly. Caroline Tung Richmond is also the author of The Only Thing To Fear, about the present day world under Hitler’s control. Even though this book isn’t an alternate history, it is still about World War II.

The year is 1943, in France, and Lucie Blaise is a part of Covert Ops, a group of female spies. They are willing to do anything to take down Hitler. After her older brother dies in combat, Lucie wants to avenge his death and try in any way possible to defeat Hitler. She didn’t want a boring desk job, and wanted to be an actual spy. Even with her training, she is unprepared for the real world. She almost gets caught, but luckily the Nazis barely buy her cover. Also, she didn’t remember her training exactly when she had her job to do, and she almost was fired because of it. I can’t describe what her job was, because it be too much of a spoiler.

This is a really interesting book about female spies in World War II. I felt that the scenes with Dorner could have been written differently, like maybe Lucie could have been starting to fall in love with Dorner, and the book would have been longer as a result. But nothing happened between them, there was no love story for Lucie, and I feel the book would have been more interesting if something did happen. After reading this book, I wondered if some of the events mentioned were true, and reading the Author’s Note explained it. The Operation Zerfall is fiction, but I was shocked to read that the Wunderwaffe program existed.

So if you’re into World War II, spies, or historical fiction, this book is for you! If you like this book, I strongly recommend reading Richmond’s other book, The Only Thing To Fear. This book isn’t mean for younger audiences.

-Rebecca V. 8th grade

The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until a bit after the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the War of the Pacific with Japan. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist. I do think the way it was written was appropriate, though, because it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids, while having to remember the things that happened.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two, by Joseph Bruchac, is based on the Navajo code talkers during World War II who created a secret code based on their language to be able to send and receive messages that wouldn’t be deciphered. It is told from the point of view of a former Navajo Marine who is talking to his grandchildren, so the book is relatively fast-paced since it goes through a span of a few years pretty quickly and doesn’t go extremely in-depth. It starts off with the main character going to an American boarding school, and continues through until the end of the war with the Japanese.

The book highlighted a part of World War II in the Pacific that I never knew about, and emphasized the importance of the code talkers during the war with the Japanese. It also focused on the personal reactions of the main character to the things around him and the way he uses his culture and the “Navajo way” to help him deal with his surroundings. The book also goes over some of the prejudice that the Native Americans went through and the way they overcame it by showing that they were capable of handling their jobs. Overall, the book summarizes a lot, but it was cool to learn about historical facts that I’d never heard of before, the different islands that were battled over, and the the Japanese and American defense and attack strategies.

Personally, reading this book came at a good time for me, since I started reading it right before we learned about WWII at school and the war with the Japanese. I really liked it, although I felt that it could have gone more into depth about some of the things that happened and the people around the protagonist, but it was written like a person would probably tell a story about serving in war to young kids while at the same time remembering the things that happened, so I think that the way it was written was appropriate.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history and WWII.

-Aliya A.

Code Talker: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War Two by Joseph Bruchac is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida

picturebride_yoshikouchidaPicture Bride, a novel by Yoshiko Uchida, is the story of a teenage girl named Hana who is sent to America. She carries a picture of a man she has been arranged to marry but has yet to meet. Traveling an ocean away from her once noble Japanese family, Hana is promised that in America, she will live a life of comfort with her merchant husband, Taro Takeda. Hana is devastated when she finds not a successful merchant in San Francisco, but an impoverished shopkeeper who can barely provide for himself. However, despite her many trials, Hana and her husband learn to be happy in a marriage that seemed doomed to fail. San Francisco was not kind to Japanese immigrants in the mid-twentieth century, and Hana soon found herself faced with racism and hardships, all leading up to the one event that would change her life: the Japanese internment camps.

This novel has become one of my all time favorites, not only because of the wonderful writing style that Uchida uses, but because of his portrayal of Hana Takeda. Hana shows us rare insight into the mind of a young immigrant woman. Forced into a situation that she cannot control, Hana learns to adapt to a society that seems out to get her from the moment she sets foot on its shores. In her time period, women’s rights, especially those of an immigrant woman, were stifled. Hana was expected to be a homemaker and a mother. Graceful and dignified, Hana dares to quietly go against the norms of her culture and become an independent woman who struggles to adapt to a foreign nation and values.

-Mirabella S.

Picture Bride by Yoshiko Uchida is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

threemusketeers_alexandredumasThe Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas, was written in 1844. Set in France in 1625, it takes place during the reign of Louis XIII, with Cardinal Richelieu as his advisor. D’Artagnan leaves his home in Gascony and goes to Paris to join the Musketeers. At an inn on the way, he gets into some trouble and has the “letter of recommendation” his father had written for him stolen. When he gets to Paris, D’Artagnan visits the captain of the Musketeers, but is not admitted due to the fact that he does not have the letter. As the story progresses, D’Artagnan meets the three musketeers that he is to be good friends with, and gets caught up in political intrigues, of which some he involves his friends.

I liked this book because I remembered learning about this part of history at school, so it was a bit more enjoyable because I knew the historical background of the political characters (like the King, Richelieu, Queen, etc.). I also enjoyed reading it because the characters had distinct personalities and were not flat, and they each had their own flaws. Although I did not remember the description of each main character and their lackeys that was near the beginning of the book, I realized their personalities as I read so it was nice to not have to continually refer to earlier parts of the book to remember which character was which.

-Aliya A.

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Hoopla