Purple Heart
by McCormick, Patricia

While recuperating in a Baghdad hospital from a traumatic brain injury sustained during the Iraq War, eighteen-year-old soldier Matt Duffy struggles to recall what happened to him and how it relates to his ten-year-old friend, Ali.

McCormick, never one to shy away from heavy issues (self-mutilation in Cut, 2000; sexual slavery in Sold, 2006), now takes readers into the dark heart of wartime Iraq. Private Matt Duffy awakes in a hospital bed, suffering from a severe brain injury sustained during a confrontation with insurgents. His memory of the encounter is foggy, but the pieces that slowly settle in contradict the story told by his squadmate and friend, Justin. An Iraqi kid was killed, though no one seems to know why or by whom, and Matt gets the distinct feeling that the Army doesn't want to know. McCormick clearly evokes Matt's longing to return to his unit and his buddies and sets that against the psychological trauma of reentering the fray and coming to terms with a death for which he holds himself accountable. Gripping details of existence in a war zone bring this to life, and penetrating questions about duty and guilt drive it home. Pair this novel with Ghosts of War, reviewed on p.49, a teen soldier's account of his time in Iraq. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Injured, dazed and bewildered from combat, teenager Private Matt Duffy wakes up in the infirmary to receive the prized Purple Heart for his valor in Iraq. He suffers from severe traumatic brain injury, so his memories of his last patrol are broken and hazy at best: He remembers raising the barrel of his gun to the face of an Iraqi boy and his friend Wolf coming to his rescue. McCormick builds the plot subtly and carefully with rich, spare prose. At first readers will feel nearly as disoriented as Matt as he pieces together what happened, but his clarity slowly returns, and both Matt and readers are filled with unease and a sinking dread that he may have killed the boy who haunts his memories. The minor characters are drawn just as humanely as Matt; readers will come to love and respect each young soldier who visits him in the hospital. The author tenderly calculates the guilt and trepidation that infect Matt's mind, and when he returns to patrol, what he finds on the streets of Iraq will either make him or break him. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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