Saturday 12 September 2015

Poppy - Book Review

Poppy - Book Review
Mary Hooper
YA Historical
Poppy Book #1
UK Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books


England, 1914, Poppy is fifteen, beautiful and clever, but society has already carved out her destiny. There’s no question of her attending grammar school - it’s too expensive and unsuitable for a girl. Instead, Poppy will become a servant at the big house. And she’ll keep out of trouble.

But Poppy’s life is about to be thrown dramatically off course. The first reason is love - with someone forbidden, who could never, ever marry a girl like her. The second reason is war. Nothing could have prepared her for that. As she experiences what people are capable of - the best of humanity and the very worst - Poppy will find an unexpected freedom and discover how to be truly her own person.


I always enjoy Mary Hooper’s books. They are generally short, read-in-a-day sort of stories that have strong, independent heroines and lots of historical facts concealed within their pages. Poppy was no exception and yet another really enjoyable read.

Set during the first world war, the story is told from the view point of fifteen-year-old Poppy Pearson. A simple parlour maid, her life is changed forever when the rich family she works for have their house requisitioned for use as a hospital. Deciding to seek her future elsewhere, Poppy, with the support of an old teacher, joins the up to the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and soon finds herself nursing wounded men at one of the biggest medical facilities in England.

Here she learns to deal with and care for the many thousands of men wounded in action. Lost limbs, broken faces and most of all, crushed spirits, one by one, Poppy learns to assist them all. But fear continues to dwell in her heart for her brother, fighting on the frontline. For as if facing bullets and bombs was not enough, she know’s he is a coward at heart and may do something stupid if it would get him out of the war… 

But Poppy is also distracted by the charming Officer DeVere. After a couple of romantic meetings, Poppy knows she is in love, but the gentry are still off limits to girls like her, but with social barriers crumbling left right and centre, she can only hope DeVere will choose to defy his family's wishes and pick her. But Devere has secrets of his own, and with the war raging no one knows who will live and who will die…

One thing I always love with Mary Hooper’s novels is how much I learn, and this book was bursting with historical detail. Things from the giving of white feathers to cowardly men who avoided fighting for their country, to the tin-nose shops where plastic surgery began, taking form in the shapes of new faces for wounded soldiers. 

The characters are also well written. Friendships develop throughout the book and I was amused when - since all the VADs are referred to by last name - Poppy failed to remember the first name of girl with whom she considered herself a close friend and confidant. 

Also the descriptions in this book really immerses you into a World War setting. Through Poppy’s eyes the readers sees everything, from the unity of the people to support the soldiers, the tears shed by those who mourn, the morbid details of the newspapers… the joint effort to keep smiling in a hopeless situation. However the descriptions are tastefully done and perfect to engage the imagination of younger YA readers without giving them nightmares. Instead, this book will offer them a heart-moving insight into life during the war.

I only have two smalls criticisms of this story. The first being that I kept holding my breath, waiting for something irreversibly bad to happen - although I was very much relieved when it didn’t. However I felt Poppy was lucky that most of the bad events happened to people she only knew vaguely. While this was good for Poppy, I didn't come to love her in quite the same way as some of Mary Hooper’s other heroines who suffered more heartache. 

Also I thought the ending was a bit abrupt, however I didn't realise there was a second book, Poppy in the Field. I now plan to get my hands on that as soon as possible to continue the story and find out what is next in store for Poppy. 

All in all, a very nice story. 3.5 stars!

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