Rating: 4 out of 5
18-year-old Matt Duffy wakes up in an American-run hospital in Iraq with a bad headache, a limp, a Purple Heart, and no recollection of how he had gotten there. As he struggles to recover, both physically and mentally, Matt begins to see flashes of what happened the night before his hospitalization, images that don’t seem to match up with the accounts his friend Justin gives him.
When Matt returns to his friends, he must deal with his confusing feelings of guilt, and the realization that nothing is ever black and white in tragedy…
No one is better at tackling tough topics than perhaps Patricia McCormick, and PURPLE HEART joins the ranks of SOLD and CUT as strikingly sad, impossible to put down. If it doesn’t leave you crying, PURPLE HEART will at least make you ache for the difficult positions these soldiers are placed in.
Young soldiers have rarely played a major role in modern YA lit, and so Matt Duffy is a refreshing character who lives up to his groundbreaking role in literature remarkably well. Matt and his comrades display all the vulnerabilities that we never even realized soldiers will have: gun-shyness after a traumatic event, the inability to make quick and easy decisions, and bravado that masks the very real fear of dying.
McCormick’s language is alternately simple and lyrical, causing us to feel as if we are floating in another, fantastical world while simultaneously grounding us in harsh reality. Through Matt’s eyes we can notice the smallest details and see how they would affect a young soldier. In the end, what stands out to me about this novel are the little things: the warbling singing voice of a woman on the radio, the rhythmic up-and-down of a yo-yo, Halo video games. The beauty of McCormick’s writing is that, now, these simple images, these sensory details, will forever remind me of the horrors of war.
PURPL HEART is a short read—hardly 200 pages—but it is by no means an easy read for anyone. And yet hardly has a book been needed to be read more. With war still such a big part of our society, we have needed a book like this for a long time. PURPLE HEART should be a must-read to open one’s eyes towards the complexities of war.
Nancy Werlin (The Rules of Survival)
E. R. Frank (America)
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - I like it. I like the font used for the title, as well as the muted, earthy colors and the silhouettes of people running around. It gives a hopeful yet sad image at the same time.
HarperTeen / Sept. 1, 2009
Thanks, Alyssa, for sending me this copy!