Saturday, 10 May 2014

Valentine Joe, Rebecca Stevens

Pages: 150
Publisher: Chicken House
Release Date: 1st May 2014
Edition: UK paperback, purchased

Rose goes to Ypres in Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great War. There, the name of one boy stays in her mind: fifteen-year-old Valentine Joe. That night, Rose hears marching and when she looks out of her window, she sees a young soldier...

At only 150 pages I wondered how Rebecca Stevens could possibly tackle such a huge and important subject. Though Valentine Joe is short, it does pack a through-provoking punch and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Stevens’ writing is warm and familiar and immediately pulls you on to the Eurostar with Rose and her granddad on their way to Ypres to visit the grave of her granddad’s uncle’s grave. I love the relationship between Rose and her granddad. There’s genuine affection, a shared grief and friendship and it’s just lovely. Then Rose was thrown into the town in 1916 and it all changed.

Joe, oh Joe. He’s cheeky, adorable and incredibly stubborn. You know his fate from the beginning but I just couldn’t help hoping. The time him and Rose had together was brief, but deeply affected both of them. When Joe went to the front, Rose helped him get himself together and gave him a lasting comfort. Meeting Joe and experiencing the war helped Rose to move on from her dad’s death a year before.  It was, of course, an element of magical realism in Valentine Joe, but it felt perfectly right. Nothing felt false, out of place or like Rose was going mad or dreaming. She doubted everything she experienced and had to let herself have concrete proof before she could comprehend what had happened. It just worked

Valentine Joe is smart, funny, touching and incredibly easy to read. Highly recommended to get kids, teens and adults interested in the Great War centenary this summer.


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