I am so ambivalent about this book that it’s taken me several minutes to compose this first sentence. I want to read some satisfying fiction, and this was not it.
We start out in 1941 with our protagonist Juliet blowing stuff up in the science lab at school. I am on board with this. I’m thinking this is going to be a book about a woman doing science during the war having to deal with everything this entails.
This is not what the book is about. It’s confusing that Vanderbes started out with such a strong setting and gives Juliet a brilliant mind and then makes the book not about that.
Juliet has an older brother named Tuck and he is her entire world. Their dad is loving, but quiet and reserved. Their mom died when Juliet was three, and her dad’s new wife is decent, but there’s not demonstrative love in this house. This is a house of science, and calm, rational discussion.
I get the sense that Tuck gets to experience and feel more things because he’s a boy and star of all the sports, so he can move quickly and speak loudly. He gets to make decisions and take action and Juliet is there to support him.
Things happen to Juliet, and that’s my biggest complaint about this book.
Even when she takes action, I never felt like it was her own choice. Tuck made decisions, so she made her decisions based on him. I never really got to know Juliet even though the entire book is her perspective. I didn’t feel frustrated when she did. There were a few moments where I felt her anger, but she seemed so detached from everything.
But then again, it’s WWII and detachment might mean survival.
We’ve got the basic war plot where Tuck signs up and heads off. Letters stop coming. A telegram comes. He’s missing, which is sometimes worse than death.
Juliet has decided to become a nurse. She didn’t know she had decided to become a nurse. She said it out loud and, oh hey, she’s going to become a nurse.
Again, she is super smart and I wanted more of that scientific brilliance to show through.
So she becomes a nurse and she plans on doing domestic nurse things until she turns 18 and can join the Nurse Corps. Now that Tuck is missing? What if she were to lie about her age and keep putting in for transfers until she gets as close as possible to where he last was?
Can that happen? I don’t have any prior knowledge here, but this seemed really unlikely. I liked the idea. Tuck is her world, so of course she’s going to go look for him, but would this work?
Before Tuck went missing he sent Juliet a really weird letter. He referred to Raven Point, their childhood safe place. He used the code phrase they invented but not in a context that made sense. Juliet reads it again and again trying to puzzle out what he was trying to tell her. It didn’t match any of his other letters and they’d never had a face to face conversation like this. She decides that he must be asking for her help, which fuels her to get as close to battle as possible.
She’s thrown in with a good cast of characters but she remains distant, which meant I remained distant from her. I never got the sense that she loved her job or was proud of what she did. It felt flat to me.
I’m reading and waiting for the secret of Raven Point to be revealed. Conveniently, a member of Tuck’s platoon shows up, only Tuck has never written about him. She knows everything about the other men, but nothing about this guy. Also, he’s in a coma-like state. Juliet is convinced that if she can unlock his mind, she’ll find Tuck.
I had checked out of the book long before this, but half-heartedly finished because I was interested in the secret and what kind of resolution comes with a missing-in-action brother. I also realized I’d be able to finish it in one read, which was good because if I had put it down, I wouldn’t have gone back to it.
The did like the final few pages, which was in itself a let down because I thought the rest of the book could have done better. The problem with the last bit though was that it was a bunch of telling and tying things up with pretty bows.
Not a horrible book, just not for me. Unless I am completely on board with a main character, I’m going to have a hard time with the story.