Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Book Review: The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Published: January 8, 2015

Genre: Historical, Middle Grade

Hardcover Pages: 316

Synopsis: An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.

Ten-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?

This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

Thoughts: You know what's funny? I always have this notion that I'm not going to like books set during World War II. I've read a few now, and every time I think oh here we go, yet another war story. While I often feel this way about movies as well, sometimes those feelings actually turn out to be true. BUT when it comes to the books I've read, you know what, the few that I've read recently have all been great.

The War that Saved My Life is no exception. I was drawn in immediately by Ada's story, and indeed I read this book faster than I've read most books recently, which is always an indicator to me how much I am enjoying something. I'm a bit of a sucker for protagonists that have a physical struggle in some way, so Ada was fitting into that mold right from the start. She's strong, yet very vulnerable, and has to deal with being thrust into a completely different world than she's used to right off the bat.

The book also represents a unique perspective during the war. So many movies tend to focus on soldiers and battles, while this book focuses on what the regular people back in England, and for most of the book here, the English countryside closest to France, were going through. Putting up blackout curtains, bombings, supplies going scarce. And, most of all, people not knowing what the best thing to do for their children - send them away, or stay home together and risk being bombed?

All of that being said, the real strength here is the relationships and the depth of the characters, in particular both Ada and Susan. Though Susan is seen through Ada's eyes, there are so many clues given about her, that the reader can deduct a great deal about her life without it explicitly being stated. Ada also being able to come into her own and stand up for herself was very satisfying. While the end did feel like it happened very quickly in comparison to the rest of the book, if I'm being honest, I think that was a good choice, as having to read a lot more of certain things wouldn't have been fun, especially when you intrinsically know that somehow things will probably come together.

If you like this book, I would also highly recommend Between Shades of Grey and Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. Both feature stories of strong young people during World War II struggling to survive. Very different stories, but both hooked me from the start.

Thanks for the recommendation on this one, Brittany! I probably wouldn't have known about it otherwise, as I don't always pay as close attention to middle grade fiction.

Rating: 4.5/5

Buy on Amazon

What I'm Reading Next: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab


  1. So glad you liked it! I loved Susan. I thought she was such a nuanced and approachable character. It was also really nice to see a unique perspective in WWII literature. This ended up being one of my top three YA/middle grade reads from 2018.

    Both of your recommendations are on my TBR list - hoping to get to them soon. If you want another very unique take on WWII, I recently read and loved Code Name Verity. I would highly recommend it.

    1. Susan was great - you're right, very nuanced and felt like a real person.

      I did read and also loved Code Name Verity - completely forgot to mention that one! It was one of my top books read in 2012. Haven't checked out the sequel yet, though.

      Did you like the sequel to this one as well? Just assuming you've already read it, ha!

    2. I did like the sequel and would definitely recommend it. The audio version is quite good if you like audiobooks.

      I haven't read the Code Name Verity sequel yet either, partially because it is just a companion novel and not a true sequel and partially because I need more time to recover emotionally from CNV. That book had me ugly crying in several parts!

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