I am so excited that Patricia McCormick is going to speak via Skype with my seventh period class. Over half of them have read and loved Cut. I loved it, too, when I first read it. Since several of my students have been reading other McCormick books after finishing Cut, I wanted to get in on it, too.
First up is Purple Heart (Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins 2009). Private Matt Duffy wakes up in a hospital in the Green Zone in Baghdad. He is recovering from TBI (traumatic brain injury) after a too-close encounter with an RPG. He can’t remember exactly what happened in the alley, but the bits and pieces of memory that surface in his mind hint that something bad happened. Even though he is questioned about the incident, which left a civilian dead, no one seems too intent on pressing for answers. He works hard to regain his strength and his memory so that he can rejoin his unit, but once he is released from the hospital, he’s not sure if he’s really ready. How can he move past what happened in that alley if he can’t even remember what happened?
What I loved about Purple Heart is how McCormick is able to get inside Matt’s head. As I read, I felt both his strength and vulnerability. He pushes himself to get stronger so he can get back to being a soldier with his unit. He wants to be a soldier they can count on. He wants to know the truth even if the truth is painful. Through Matt’s eyes, we can begin to see the complexity of the war in Iraq, where there is not a visible difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Just as the priest who hears confession in the hospital, McCormick shows us Matt’s story without judgement, only compassion.
This story pairs well with the true account of a soldier, Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson, and the Young Hoosier nominee, Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams. What other stories have you read that deal with war, whether the one in Iraq or other wars?