Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
This is sort of a sequel to Code Name Verity and it certainly lives up to its predecessor. I found Verity to be thrilling, harrowing and life-affirming, which considering Verity's fate, is a smidge ironic. I was impressed by all of the research Wein did on the girl pilots of World War II and how she crafted such a thrilling tale utilizing the new knowledge.
Rose Under Fire is the story of Rose Justice, an American teen who has managed to get herself a piloting job with the British RAF, transporting planes. Rose befriends Maddie, the grieving friend of "Verity" and the two grow to be very close.
While flying a plane to be repaired, she finds herself in the wrong air space and she is captured by the Germans and taken to the infamous Ravensbruk concentration camp. There, the girl has to learn to survive. She is not a combatant, or a spy, she's not even a Brit, but she is still the enemy. She spins daydreams where she is rescued by her pilot boyfriend and leaves all of this behind.
Rose is sent to the barracks of a group of Polish prisoners, and the women take her in and protect her. She soon learns that they are the "rabbits", women who were cruelly experimented on by the camp doctors. In an effort to determine how much it would take to kill a German soldier, they shot and sickened and chopped up these poor girls. They would be cut and then have infection packed into the wounds to see what would happen, just for starters. The ones who didn't survive were remembered as a chant by the others. The idea was to get their names out there and make sure that when the war was over, the Germans would not be able to get away with their treatment of the young women. They believed that publicity would get them freed/saved whatever atrocities the Germans had planned for them.
Rose and the rabbits work together to try and ensure a future for each other. They find ways to keep each other warm and fed and protected from random, and not so random violence.
Once again, Wein did her homework and brings readers a story that illuminates a dark time in our past. You should absolutely check out her website and click on her resources. She's got information about the camp and photographs and information about the rabbits.
Rose is a "gosh and golly" teen from Pennsylvania Dutch country who finds herself in a horrible position. Wein gives us a naive girl, struggling to survive and learning a lot about herself and the world in the process. I think this may be an even more moving book than Verity.
Also, Wein gives us a glimpse into something that we tend to lose sight of in an us/them world. In every war or battle, all of the combatants are people. The people who are defined as your enemy may feel the same way you do. It makes me sad. I love when I can hear the stories of people who got passed all of that, enough to discover the humanity in each other.