Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Handling the Truth

PURPLE HEART by Patricia McCormick
4Q 3P; Audience: J/S

When Matt wakes up in the hospital, he's got a heck of a headache, a lot of pain, and a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. How did he get there? All he remembers is being on checkpoint duty with Justin, a chase after a taxi that burst through their barricade, an alley, and a dog with a broken tail. But what happened then? How did he wind up in the hospital? His doctors tell him he has a traumatic brain injury that will make him dizzy, anxious, and moody. It will keep him groping for words and groping for memories. They're right. The more Matt tries to remember what happened, the more frustrated and upset he gets. Something else happened in that alley, and it was something bad. Something about a little boy and the dog. Why can't he remember what it was? And why does it seem as though nobody really wants him to remember?

Most of the books I've read about soldiers have been focused primarily on what happens in the field. They rely on battle scenes for their action and tension. In this book, the tension derives from Matt's confusion over what really happened in that alley and his gradual realization that the official story and the real story may have significant differences.

I hated to see Matt so lost and so unable to find comfort in the places he used to be able to find it: his high school sweetheart, his faith, and his platoon buddies. I hated that he wasn't given time to heal completely before he was sent back to his unit (apparently a very common circumstance). I hated that Matt's faith in people gets sorely tested. As I turned the last page of the book, I could only hope that Matt is able to heal both emotionally and physically sometime in the not-to-distant future.

Without being too spoilery, I know the key element to the events as McCormack describes them has happened and probably will continue to happen, and the motivation that she/Matt provides for it appears plausible. But it still disheartened me, and true-too-life or not, I wish she had chosen a different path. And I suspect that's exactly the reaction she hoped for when she wrote it.

This book might not have all the high-stakes action boys usually want when they ask for a book about war, but I think most of them will not be disappointed when they pick this one up.

For more on this book: http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/33041/Patricia_McCormick/index.aspx

(Yikes! I started this post on February 9 and I'm just posting it now!)

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