Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

Publisher: Chicken House
Format: Paperback / eBook
Released: May 1st, 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon summary:

Rose's granddad takes her on a trip to Ypres, Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great War. It's the day before Valentine's, but Rose can sense the shattered old city beneath the chocolate-box new. And it seems that it can sense her too. When she goes up to her room that night, she hears the sound of marching feet and glimpses from her window a young soldier on his way to the front line.


Valentine Joe is a poignant look at the First World War and the impact it had on soldiers, families and the world as a whole. It's a short read but one that has a strong impact and stays in your head even after you've finished, ensuring that Valentine Joe's very real story will never be forgotten.

Fourteen-year-old Rose visits Ypres with her grandad to visit the many graves situated there. Rose is still recovering from the death of her beloved father, and life is anything but easy for her. Visiting Ypres opens her eyes to what the Great War was like and how horrific it truly was, especially when she finds herself taken back in time and meeting fifteen-year-old soldier Valentine Joe. Rose's life will never be the same again, as Joe helps her with her grief and shows her that life really is for living.

Rebecca Stevens writes with such respect and understanding that it's hard not to get pulled in to Valentine Joe. Her author's note at the end, the fact that Valentine Joe was real and even the dedication page at the beginning brought me to tears and made me vow to learn more about WWI. My war knowledge is mostly WWII based but reading this book has made me want to know more about the brave soldiers who gave their lives between 1914-1918, and the generations of men that were all but wiped out.

The premise of Valentine Joe is an interesting one, and obviously the subject is very topical given that this year marks one hundred years since the outbreak of WWI. I wish this book could have been longer and more fleshed out, but as it stands it's sparse and probably more hard-hitting because of it. I'd also love to have known how Rose actually manages to be transported back to this period in history, but it's nice that the reader can come up with their own theories.

Anyone with an interest in war fiction will enjoy Valentine Joe and I hope it reaches an audience with children. It's a great starting point to get a discussion going and will give a not too detailed insight into what it was like to fight and live through those years. I'd love Rebecca Stevens to write more about WWI in the future, so here's hoping she hasn't ruled it out!

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