Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: "The Secret of Raven Point" by Jennifer Vanderbes

I found this book on someone's (Huffington Post Books?)" must read of 2014 so far" list. I don't usually find anything that tickles my fancy on those kind of lists but this sounded good and so I  gave it a shot. So glad I did!

The book centers around Juliet and her older brother Tuck, who live in Charleston. The book starts right before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Juliet is about 16, a bit of an introvert, but a science prodigy. Tuck is a few years older and is a popular football player with a string of girlfriends a mile long. Despite their differences they are quite close and spend a lot of time together. After Pearl Harbor, Tuck enlists and ships out. Juliet starts thinking about college, but then a fateful telegram arrives. Tuck is missing.

Juliet abandons her plans for science fairs and college, and goes to nursing school. She asks to be sent to the front lines in Italy, the last place that she had heard from Tuck. The days and nights are hard, bloody, exhausting and frustrating. She goes for a long time without hearing anything about his platoon, but when she does she discovers they have moved on to France.

One night a man is brought in with a gunshot wound to the face, she finds out that it's self inflicted. She is assigned to him exclusively, though they don't think he will make it long. (One of his eyeballs was dangling on his cheek when he came in). However, Christopher Barnaby does begin to slowly recover, though he mostly in a semicoma with only brief moments of clarity. In his small moments of clarity he basically just looks panicked. Dr Willard is a psychologist whose job it is to evaluate soldiers to see if they are capable of going back to battle. Dr Willard knows that even if Christopher was to recover he wouldn't be going back to the front, he might be going to the gallows (figuratively, not literally).

Juliet and Dr Willard start to do experiments where they give him a certain injection and he comes out of his coma long enough to talk lucidly. In one of these experiments it comes out that Tuck and Christopher were in the same platoon. Juliet is surprised, but excited that she is one small step closer to finding her brother. But progress is slow and Dr Willard reprimands Juliet for using Christopher just to find out information about her brother.

Juliet finds herself growing closer and closer to Willard, but the war rages around them. She loses several patients and a few friends. There's a harrowing incident with one of the other doctors and her roommate. (Here's Wesley's helpful hint of the day: if you're going to sneak out to have sex in the middle of the night, make sure that you don't sneak out to a minefield and have to be rescued...because that is embarrassing AND dangerous.)
Don't have sex here.

 Barnaby gets better and Juliet finds out that the last time that Barnaby saw him, Tuck was alive. This gives her hope but then Barnaby disappears and Dr Willard and Juliet have 72 hours to find him before the military police do....

This book pleasantly surprised me. I was scared it was going to be: girl goes to europe, falls in love with a dashing soldier, and then they come back to the US and live happily ever after. (I'm skeptical about these happily ever afters. Which is another great name for my all girl metal band "Skeptical About Happily Ever Afters".) This book is deeper than that, nothing gets glossed over: there's buckets of amputated limbs, good people die, bad things happen, not everyone gets a happy ending, it's realistic like that. Now I've made it sounds like a real Debbie Downer of a book, which it isn't. There are definitely some sad parts but it's an exciting, thoughtful read overall and I give it 3.5 out of 4 stars.

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