The Best YA You Haven’t Read (Yet) – Rose Under Fire

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This is the second post in a series: The Best YA You Haven’t Read (Yet)

Rose Under Fire is the accompanying novel to the phenomenal Code Name Verity, and it is this connection that has caused RUF to fall somewhere under the radar. Code Name Verity is so brilliant – and so beloved – that the conversation tends to begin and end with said brilliance. When you use up so many superlatives for a book, there are few left for the one that comes next.

But make no mistake: Rose Under Fire is brilliant too. Maybe (gasp!) even more so.

Part of what makes Code Name Verity so good is the core friendship between Queenie and Maddie. The exploration of female friendship is done so beautifully, and with such truth, that its heart seems to beat right out of the pages.

Rose Under Fire takes this core theme and doubles, triples and quadruples it. The book is about female friendship, love and strength forged in the fire of unimaginable pain and trauma. So many war novels focus on male bonding in the horrors of war. This (finally!) is the female version and it is so, so good.

The eponymous Rose is an 18 year old American pilot who has come to Britain to help the war effort, ferrying planes across UK skies. One mistake lands her on German soil, and she is taken to Ravensbruck, a women’s concentration camp in northern Germany. It is 1944.

I didn’t know much about Ravensbruck before I read RUF, and so its weight as a historical novel is one of its most important aspects for me. I knew so little about the women of Ravensbruck, what brought them there, how they survived. I didn’t know about the Polish rabbits or taran pilots or the underground resistance. We know so much about the experience of the fighting men during wartime – especially WW2 – but where are the women? Thank you, Elizabeth Wein, for bringing them to life so beautifully.

She barked an order at the guards. They’d sent extras, expecting a fight. She took hold of a dog’s leash and started prowling among the first rows of silent, stubborn language professors and music teachers and widowed mothers and orphaned daughters, and projectionists and spies and bartenders and cleaning ladies and Resistance agents and Red Army soldiers and Girl Scout saboteurs. And taran pilots.

Did I convince you? You can find Rose Under Fire here

NB: You don’t have to have read Code Name Verity in order to read Rose Under Fire. Chronologically, it does come after, but it works perfectly as a standalone.

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