Title & Author: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick
Summary: Young Army Private Matt Duffy can’t remember why he’s in the hospital inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, but all he knows is that he doesn’t deserve the Purple Heart pinned to his chest. He wants to get back to his buddies and his unit, his head aches won’t go away, and he wants to know why he keeps having visions of 10-year-old Ali. Why was he in the alley that day? When his flashbacks become more detailed, and with the help of a counselor, Matt begins to see the truth behind the events that put him in the hospital, and he questions the label the Army has given him even more.
Reference: McCormick, P. (2009). Purple Heart. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray.
My Impressions: This realistic fiction book is one of my new favorites. Already being a fan of Patricia McCormick makes it easy, but also, I can’t wait to put this book into the hands of (especially) struggling reader boys because of its raw, edgy dialogue. Just like the soldiers in Walter Dean Myers’ Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Fallujah, Matt Duffy isn’t perfect, but he is someone that young teens thinking about a future in the military can relate to.
Professional Review: /* Starred Review */ “In this suspenseful psychological thriller, 18-year-old Matt Duffy, a private with memory problems following a traumatic brain injury, receives the PurpleHeart in Iraq and gradually unravels the contradictory events that led to the honor. McCormick (Sold ) sharply draws the culture of the Green Zone hospital, the camaraderie of the enlisted men and (via phone calls and letters) the gulf between life at home versus on the front. Friendship, bravado and juvenile antics counteract the soldiers' guilt, paranoia and unease around Iraqis (“ 'Enemy' was the official term. 'Insurgents' was okay, too. Everybody called them hajis, though”). Strong characters heighten the drama, especially likable Matt, but also the sympathetic hospital psychiatrist who balances complicated allegiances and legal obligations, and flinty Charlene, the sole female member of Matt's squad. As Matt remembers more and more, tension builds and he becomes confused about interpretations of the truth (and when to reveal them) within the chain of command. McCormick raises moral questions without judgment and will have readers examining not only this conflict but the nature of heroism and war. Ages 12–up.”
Reference: Purple Heart. (2009, August 24). [Review of the book Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick]. Publishers Weekly, 256 (34), 63. Retrieved from http://publishersweekly.com
Library Uses: What a great book to use in conjunction with Veteran’s Day! This book could be used as part of a program that focuses on military service and military honors.