Some characters in literature have such vivid voices, they stay with you long after the last page of the story has been turned. So is the case with Ada Smith, the young protagonist in Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s powerful Newbery Honor book, The War That Saved My Life. This has been on my TBR list for quite a while, and now that I’ve finished it, I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. The War That Saved My Life is a compelling, character driven journey (my favorite!) highlighting one’s will to survive… and eventually thrive. Ada’s story is mesmerizing.
The War That Saved My Life is set in Great Britain during World War II. Ten year old Ada had a club foot and an abusive mother who is both mortified and ashamed by the fact that her daughter is crippled. She keeps Ada locked in their small apartment in London, and Ada has thus never seen grass or felt the sun’s warmth on her face. When evacuations begin, taking children out of London and bringing them to the safety of the English countryside, Ada escapes her mother’s wrath with her younger brother Jamie in tow. The two are placed in the care of a woman named Susan, and though Susan claims she is “not nice,” Ada and Jamie may just learn what it means to love– and be loved in return.
This book is a marvel, and Ada felt so authentic throughout the story. Ada’s prior struggles and post traumatic stress make it challenging for her to adapt to her new surroundings, so change happens slowly- and Bradley handles her evolution deftly and with a masterful touch. There are so many different types of freedom fights in literature, and Ada’s struggle to be free from an abusive parent and a crippling stereotype is at once poignant and triumphant. A must have for every tween and classroom library.
Want the book? Get it here! The War that Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. *This is an affiliate link.