Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

This is a hard-hitting, heart-grabbing story of a young man stationed in Iraq.  Private Matt Duffy wakes up in a military field hospital with little memory of how he ended up there.  The doctors tell him he has a TBI- traumatic brain injury- and that he might have issues with memory and retention.

The next time he wakes up, he is being awarded a Purple Heart for his service.  Yet something tugs at the back of his mind, something not quite right.  He doesn’t feel like a hero.  And the image of his young friend, Ali, an Iraqi boy, haunts him night and day.  Matt repeatedly sees an image of Ali’s body flying into the air as a bullet hits his chest.  And he knows he had something to do with it.

I could not put this down. Purple Heart will leave your heart aching for both sides of the war. I haven’t read a lot of books that focus on the young soldiers fighting for our freedom but McCormick captures it as accurately as I imagine it could be captured. Matt’s voice rings true, like any 18 or 19 year old. (This means he and his comrades curse, a lot. Just a warning). But he sounds like you imagine a kid, thousands of miles from home, in the midst of a war, would sound like.

You will cry for Matt. You will cry for the Iraqis. Through Matt’s eyes you can will see the big things and the small things that affect a soldier.What really stands out to me about this novel are the little things that McCormick includes: the Iraqi children playing soccer, soldiers playing the video game Halo, the tokens from home that. These small mentions capture the war more accurately then any battle scene ever could.

Purple Heart is a powerful read and one I would recommend to YA’s who are looking to learn what it is like to be a soldier. McCormick doesn’t romanticize the occupation and she doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of war. While there are only a few scenes involving actually skirmishes, I feel it is a more accurate picture of what war is really like than many other novels. Highly recommended. It is also a short novel and a fast read, perfect for reluctant readers.

*Copy purchased by me.