Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Synopsis: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
Huge thank you to Penguin Canada for this ARC!
I may have ugly cried my way through the end of this book. This is a story about being displaced, learning to cope with disability and abuse, and trying to forge out and find strength when everything seems hopeless. Yes, this storyline has been done before, especially in terms of books related to war, and yet I found myself completely absorbed into the pages of Ada and Jamie’s story.
First off, the writing in this book is stunning. Ada’s voice suits her age, but never feels dumbed down or completely mature either. She’s young, disabled and uneducated, but she has a desire to understand the world around her. Her curiosity is easily her best asset, as Ada gets into a ton of trouble. However, she’s very sincere and strong, and I love her desire to protect and even educate Jamie, her brother. Can I also just say I loved that Ada had a disability? I think her foot issues were an interesting addition to her characterization, and as someone who suffers from having one foot shorter than the other by an inch, she had my sympathy throughout!
Brubaker Bradley really breathes life into her characters and the World War II backdrop. There’s something very vivid and chilling about Ada’s home life and her desire to feel connected even in times of war. Moreover, every character feels fleshed out just enough without being over-developed. I adored Susan, and a lot of her story made me so sad, especially her attachment to the children. I wanted to smack Ada and Jamie’s real parents I don’t know how many times because their logic for raising children was insanely baffling.
The thing about The War that Saved My Life is that it’s an emotional story, and one that keeps the reader engaged because you want to see the outcome of the story, even if it’s a touch obvious. You want to read about Ada and Jamie’s growth because they are so easy to empathize with. It’s a book that makes you feel like your sharing in the children’s triumphs as much as you are dealing in their disappointments. I cannot recommend this book enough, as its easily one of the most thoughtful and engaging middle grade novels I’ve read in recent memory.