Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Release: September 10, 2013
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?Rose Under Fire snatches readers and thrusts them back into the world of Code Name Verity, a fictional land so well-researched that it springs to life on every page. The follow up novel hints on the impact of its predecessor's events (read the books in order of publication if trying to avoid spoilers), but Rose Under Fire zooms in on different horrors. Rather than illustrating a war prison, it paints a terrifying picture of a Nazi concentration camp, and in this prison a story explodes.
Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.
I barely need to mention the sickening shock factor that leads Rose's tale; anyone who has read an Elizabeth Wein book is familiar with her dedication to research and ability to weave harrowing historical facts into a narrative. I was surprised, though, by the author's ability to make such a brutal setting relatable. Because I have never known true hunger or faced indefinite separation from my family, part of me feels uninvited and disconnected while reading stories like Rose's, in which characters starve and scavenge for scraps of sanity. However, Rose Under Fire overcomes this problem by giving its main character a similar insecurity. Rose meets people who have shuffled between camps since age fourteen and goad her about her memories of a carefree life, and her resulting discomfort manifests in dialogue. Wein's exploration of how varying levels of injustice affect the arguably luckier characters allowed me to relate to the story more than I expected.
The above comments may paint the supporting characters in a negative light, but each of Rose's friends is a fantastic person and character, well-developed and understandably bitter. The protagonist's bonds with her fellow prisoners become unbreakable, and these companionships add heaps of character development and emotion to the plot. Watching friendships flourish in front of a backdrop of evil highlighted my reading experience.
I do have one warning for those who loved Code Name Verity's clever plotting: Rose Under Fire does not contain such a secretive narrative. Rose tells her story in journal entries written after escaping Ravensbrück, and learning the ending so quickly feels a bit like hearing a huge spoiler. However, the strategy shows readers the aftermath of Rose's experience side-by-side with the events that caused the physical and psychological damage. The boost this comparison gives to Rose's development, along with the fact that having the protagonist write while at the camp would have been unrealistic, makes the spoiler forgivable.
Even for those who take issue with the flashbacks and the suspense they drain, Rose Under Fire is an important book, one that shows readers the past so they can learn from it. One character screams "Tell the world!" on the way to her execution, leaving behind her a command Wein follows in a vibrant way that makes readers want to listen and spread the word as well. I rarely make sweeping recommendations, but everyone needs to read this novel. It has the ability to open readers' eyes and leave them stunned with shock, and no one who enters its world will come out quite the same.