The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ada has never been outside of her family’s one-room apartment. Her mother won’t let her be seen by others, though Ada does sit at the window and wave at people. Ada has one foot that is twisted and doesn’t work right, so she crawls around the apartment. But when Ada realizes that she has to get stronger, she teaches herself to walk on her twisted foot, even though it is agony, making sure that her mother doesn’t find out. World War II comes and children are being sent to safety outside of London. Though her mother refuses to let Ada go, Ada escapes along with her little brother Jamie and gets on a train of evacuees. From there they head into the country and are reluctantly taken in by a grieving woman. Immediately Ada is given crutches which let her get around more easily and she stubbornly sets out to teach herself to ride her host’s ignored pony. But there are many changes to come, ones that both test the strength of Ada and others that more strongly tie her to the woman who gave them shelter and care.
There are books that you read that tumble into, ones that are impossible to put down, but you don’t want to read them quickly because you are so entranced with the world they are showing you. This was one of those books for me; I adored this novel. All of the characters are human, they all make mistakes, lose their tempers, figure things out, move on and continue to care (in their own ways) for one another. They are all brave in their own ways too, escaping from a life of imprisonment and hate, learning to live after loss, and creating their own family. These are inspiring people, but the book also shows that community matters, that being accepted for who you are is vital, and that there are people out there to love us.
Bradley’s writing is exceptional. It reads easily and beautifully. She captures Ada perfectly, from her overwhelming fear of being beaten or put in a dark place to her determination and stubbornness; from her teaching herself to walk to the freedom of riding a horse. Ada is remarkable. She is a prickly child who does not let anyone into her world easily, but at the same time with the story told in her voice the readers understand her and witness how much she wants to connect and yet cannot. That first person narration is a critical reason that this book works so well.
Brilliant characters shine on the page as this book looks at war, abuse, and love in a complex and heroic way. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial.