Just Finished Reading … Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein
Published by Disney Hyperion
on September 10, 2013

Source: e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Please see my full FTC disclosure on right sidebar.

Summary from Goodreads: 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?

My take: Code Name Verity was one of my favorite YA titles of 2012, and I was both excited and apprehensive to read Rose Under Fire. I'd call Rose a companion book to Code Name Verity. It also features women who piloted planes during World War II, uses a similar narrative technique and has one crossover character from Code Name Verity. But you don't need to have read Code Name Verity to enjoy and appreciate Rose Under Fire. And I thought the two books are also quite different, each powerful and heartbreaking in a unique way.

Code Name Verity was a story about the bonds of love and friendship, a more closely-focused look at two characters and their relationship in the context of war.  Rose Under Fire takes a more wide-angled approach, looking at the incredible suffering endured by Rose in a concentration camp, but also giving the reader insight into what millions of others in other camps endured. In piloting terms (and I'm not a pilot, so bear with my metaphor here) Code Name Verity was an aerobatic book -- daring and dramatic, with a plot that took my breath away. Rose Under Fire was like a flight over a devastated landscape, a trip with more of a solemn and resolute feel. Each book's title is also telling; Code Name Verity was a book about truth and lies, while Rose Under Fire is a book about a stubborn, thorny plant that survives adverse conditions to bloom again.

Both books are technically epistolary stories. If you're a regular blog reader, you may remember that epistolary stories are not my favorite. However, in these two books I think the technique works beautifully. Using fictionalized "documents"to create a work of historical fiction adds to its authenticity and authority.  Rose begins her story in work reports, then (and I don't think this is really a spoiler because it's revealed on page 70) Rose is presumably unable to write while she's a prisoner, and we read the rest of her story after the fact through journal entries and poems. This does reduce the suspense the book was able to create, but it's also more believable, given the circumstances.  In her afterword and bibliography, Wein explains that Rose Under Fire is based on a real concentration camp and talks a little about her visit there.

Rose Under Fire is a story that touches on the very best and worst of humanity. One of the most moving things to me about Rose Under Fire was the way it highlighted our innate need for connection, our desire to be remembered, our belief in the power of storytelling. It's a story about hopelessness, but also about hope.

Later today, I'm reviewing More Than This by Patrick Ness.


  1. I have not read the first book yet but it's nice to hear you don't have to read it to enjoy this companion. I really do need to check them out sometime.

  2. I love the way you used the different titles to illuminate the plots of these books-that wasn't even something I had thought about. You know I love epistolary novels but feel like this one is less of one just because it was almost all told from Rose's perspective whereas the other "more so" epistolary novels alternate between at least two if not more people.

  3. Hmm, I'm goona have to read Code Name Verity. I had no idea these books were based during the war. Super cool!

  4. I want to read this so bad, but I'm so afraid.

  5. This came in my mailbox today and I'm in the middle of reading The Count of Monte Cristo... pretty sure there's no way I can wait until I'm done to start it!

  6. I didn't read Code Name Verity and I don't know if I will or read this one. I can only handle so much violence, especially this kind where it is so inhumane and unjustified. I also have to be careful if I pick up something so heartbreaking because it really affects my mood. My favorite book about this time in history is The Hiding Place. It's definitely a book I think everyone should read.

  7. Wonderful review. I'm currently working my way through Code Name Verity and I can see how amazing a writer Elizabeth Wein is. The way you explained Rose Under Fire really captured my interest as well, so I will definitely be checking it out. It seems like a must read. I especially like the idea of the story being told as a journal, poems etc; it fits the situation well, IMO.

    -Mari @ The Sirenic Codex

  8. I'm currently reading Rose Under Fire and am already enjoying it immensely. From what I've read so far, it does seem to touch on very different themes than Code Name Verity, but that's far from a bad thing. I just started reading Rose's recounts of her time in the concentration camp and am a little wary of reading about some of the horrible things that people endured. But I do appreciate that Wein is able to do her research so well and focus on things that we should know, even if they're not the most pleasant. Lovely review, Jen!


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