When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero.
There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together.
Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad—Justin, Wolf, and Charlene—the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.
National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick has written a visceral and compelling portrait of life in a war zone, where loyalty is valued above all, and death is terrifyingly commonplace.
In this suspenseful psychological thriller, 18-year-old Matt Duffy, a private with memory problems following a traumatic brain injury, receives the Purple Heart in Iraq and gradually unravels the contradictory events that led to the honor. McCormick (Sold) sharply draws the culture of the Green Zone hospital, the camaraderie of the enlisted men and (via phone calls and letters) the gulf between life at home versus on the front. Friendship, bravado and juvenile antics counteract the soldiers' guilt, paranoia and unease around Iraqis (“ 'Enemy' was the official term. 'Insurgents' was okay, too. Everybody called them hajis, though”). Strong characters heighten the drama, especially likable Matt, but also the sympathetic hospital psychiatrist who balances complicated allegiances and legal obligations, and flinty Charlene, the sole female member of Matt's squad. As Matt remembers more and more, tension builds and he becomes confused about interpretations of the truth (and when to reveal them) within the chain of command. McCormick raises moral questions without judgment and will have readers examining not only this conflict but the nature of heroism and war. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)