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Review of The War I Finally Won

The War I Finally Won
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Intermediate    Dial    388 pp.    g
10/17    978-0-5254-2920-3    $16.99

This sequel to Bradley’s Newbery Honor–winning The War That Saved My Life (rev. 1/15) begins with high drama: surgery for London-slum-born Ada to correct her clubfoot; the news that abusive Mam has died; Ada’s mistaken belief that she’ll now be sent to an orphanage — and her complicated feelings about all of it. But once she, younger brother Jamie, and guardian Susan are back in their village, adjusting to the cavernous “cottage” Lady Thorton lends them after their own house was destroyed by a bomb, the story settles in, and we settle in with it. Details of life on the WWII home front? Check: food rationing; fire-watching; blackout curtains; pig clubs. Memorable characters? Plenty, including Jewish refugee and math whiz Ruth, whom Lady Thorton despises for being German. Lady Thorton herself becomes a much more nuanced character as she recognizes the limitations of her privileged upbringing, and grieves over the death of her RAF pilot son. Throughout everything, events both mundane and dramatic (and there are a ton; the book is packed with incident), runs the thread of Ada’s emotional healing as she slowly, gradually, allows herself to trust the stability and love Susan offers and grows into the young woman she wants to be. Bradley sweeps us up in the story she’s telling and at the same time raises hard questions and makes us think — even as she moves us to tears. Today’s generation of readers is unlikely to discover Magorian’s classic Good Night, Mr. Tom (rev. 6/82) — but the two volumes of Ada’s story fill that void, with bells on.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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