Review: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire RealTitle: Rose Under Fire

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Genre: YA Contemporary, Historical

Publication Date: September 10, 2013 (Disney-Hyperion)

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: 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?

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.

4.5/5 stars – Wonderful sequel/companion to Code Name Verity!

Had I been at BEA with my other friends, Rose Under Fire was the one ARC I would have shoved people over to get to in time because I wanted it that badly. Seeing as I didn’t go and it went up on NetGalley, that particular crisis was averted. We’ve all got those books, right? And when those books we’d steamroll over people to get disappoint us, we’re sadder than usual. Thankfully, Rose Under Fire lives up to the lofty expectations I had for it! I don’t love it as much as Code Name Verity, but it’s still a wonderful book I look forward to buying soon.

Verity’s tale was riddled with lies and it took someone else’s point of view to make it all unravel and come back to the truth, but Rose is about the truth from the very beginning. After spending months in one of the toughest women’s concentration camps there was, she wants to tell the world what happened and tell the world she does. Her account of what happens to her within Ravensbruck’s walls is unflinching even though we know the entire time her particular account is fiction. What makes it work is that there are countless other stories just like it from this time and camp that are very, very real.

Even though Rose is our sole narrator via epistolary style (articles, letters, journal entries, etc.) other than a few pages in which other people are sending letters after Rose is captured, she;s telling so many other stories in addition to her own. There are the Rabbits, who were experimented on by the doctors in horrific ways; a character from Code Name Verity(!); prisoners taken for reasons ranging from being a professor to being a Girl Scout caught delivering contraband items; and more. The Jewish experience is largely absent from the novel because Rose never interacts deeply with any Jewish characters. RUF focuses more on the stories of other groups, which could be a deal-breaker for some.

What makes me rate RUF less than CNV is investment issues. Neither book hooked me instantly, but Verity’s skill as an unreliable narrator, how her lies unraveled,and how her book eventually made me cry earned it all five stars. RUF took over 200 pages to hook me and it was the campwide effort to keep the Rabbits from being put to death in the gas chambers that finally got me into the story. RUF wasn’t able to make me cry either and it wasn’t me. Just a few hours later, a documentary about a tragedy I’ve become largely desensitized to made me sob and documentaries make me no more sentimental than books do. RUF is still an emotional read that can go from happy to sad in 1.5 seconds, but it didn’t quite get me to cry.

Seriously, anyone who hasn’t at least tried Code Name Verity needs to ASAP and anyone who loved said book should be awaiting Rose Under Fire with bated breath. It’s just as good despite me being too tongue-tied to make it obvious!

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