Book Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under FirePublisher: Disney Hyperion

Release Date: September 2, 2014

Genre: YA, Historical Fiction

Source: borrowed from the library

This is touted as the sequel to Code Name Verity. If you haven’t read that, you’re missing out. However, if you haven’t and you pick this up (which you should) you won’t be lost. This is more a companion than anything. I’ve been on this huge WWII kick lately, and I adored this book so, so much. Here is your synopsis from Amazon:

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 Ravensbr ck, 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?

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.

1. This one breaks your heart early, unlike Code Name Verity, which breaks your heart at the end.

I will not spoil CNV for you. But just know, the end breaks your heart into a million pieces. In this one, your heart gets broken pretty early on, like at least within the first 70 pages. I cursed Elizabeth Wein with a mighty fist to the sky. Rose gets captured and put into a German concentration camp. That is no secret, so I’m not spoiling anything for you. Anyway, you go through a few pages of thinking Rose is dead. She gets captured, she disappears, we see some letters from Maddie, and that’s it. I was shattered and put right back together again multiple times. I don’t say this to scare you away, I say this to persuade you to read it because it’s amazing.

2. Our main character’s name is Rose Justice. She might as well be called Captain America.

What kind of name is Rose Justice?! AN AWESOME ONE. She is such a bad ass and a total survivor and I adore that about her. Most girls her age put into that situation would have just given up. Obviously, she doesn’t, but she is forever changed by what is done to her on behalf of the Germans. Through it all, though, she makes a point of never forgetting who she is. In the camp, people are classified by their numbers, or the transport they came in on, or their position in the camp (for example, Rose is protected by a group who calls themselves the Rabbits, since they are experimented on). I absolutely adore Rose because she is never annoying, as some YA heroines are wont to do. She does fall in love with a boy before she is captured, and he does play into their rescue fantasies a bit, but other than that there is just Rose surviving. She is one of the greatest survivors in literature that I have ever seen. Rose always makes sure she remembers who she is and where she came from.

3. Rose goes to the war because of a poet named Millay. She constantly curses her for romanticizing war, and I love this so much.

Even today, we see so many young people going to war because they want to. Rose is no different. She goes to war because she thinks she will be remembered that way – that she will make her family and country proud. Never in her most insane nightmares does she believe that she could ever be captured by the Germans since she’s just a transport pilot. But it happens. The whole book is our journey with her while she is in the concentration camp and it is so realistic that it hurts to read sometimes. I had to put the book down at some points so I could look at pictures of puppies. Everything that happened in the first book is absolutely horrific, yes, and this is no different.

4. I’m sure we all know about the Second World War and the Holocaust, but this is such a glaring look into the lives of prisoners, concentration camps, and everyone else involved in Hitler’s nightmare.

In the author’s note, Wein explains that what she shares are experiences that are real. These were heard at a conference she attended and decided to tell this story. In the book, Rose constantly mentions that her telling this story does it no justice, since there are so many more who are either dead (in violent, horrible ways) or suffered much worse than she did. Wein’s note says the same. No one can really tell these stories, or tell the world for that matter, because it just isn’t enough. Words are not enough. I don’t even have the words to describe to you how incredibly powerful this book is. I just don’t.

5. Last point, I swear. There is a particularly heartbreaking part that I’ll explain (don’t worry, no spoilers) because people actually believe this, even in 2015.

Most of the book is spent with Rose in a fancy hotel room as she’s writing down her story. There is one instance where Rose’s mother finally gets to talk to her. While they’re chatting, they gloss over the subject of concentration camps and death camps under Hitler’s orders. Her mother doesn’t believe that the camps exist and that no one could be that cruel to their fellow humans. Keep in mind, Rose has just escaped such a camp. She is too ashamed to tell her prim and proper mother what has happened to her and it was one of the hardest parts to read. I really can’t explain to you enough how incredibly important this is to not only Holocaust history, but human history.

OVERALL: FIVE STARS!!! I loved this book so much. The character of these women we meet are absolutely astounding. Even when they’re starving, weak, and on the brink of death, they’re fighting each other over who gets to save whom. They become each other’s families and they never forget that bond – no matter how awful things were for them in the camp. Read this if you love historical fiction, if you love perseverance when there is nothing but darkness, if you love strong characters who are never annoying, and if you love seeing the tenacity of the human spirit. I’m sorry if I sounded repetitive, so just go get this right now, okay? Click the link below to order!

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

  1. missprint says:

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this one! I found this a much harder read than CNV for a lot of reasons but also thought it was so satisfying and important.

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