Julie Berry, a modern master of historical fiction for young readers, follows the epic love stories of four teens in Lovely War, set against the dramatic backdrop of World War I and narrated by the Greek gods of love, war, music and death.
Brits Hazel and James meet at a parish dance, and thanks to gentle intervention from Aphrodite herself, sparks fly. But James is on his way to the fighting in France, so they continue their relationship via letters. Hazel, a talented pianist, puts her future on hold to volunteer as a YMCA relief aid in France. There, she befriends Colette, a Belgian teen who lost her whole family (and her beau) during the Battle of Dinant. Colette’s grief still consumes her four years later, but when she meets Aubrey, a black American soldier with a gift for ragtime, Colette has to admit that spending time with him—singing and making music like she’s never heard before—lessens the pain. The most brutal war the world has ever seen brought these four together, but will it also tear them apart forever?
While the device of using the gods as narrators could take away from the main characters for some, Berry’s superb research and attention to detail are perfectly suited to the layers of this story of love in wartime. The scenes revealing the complex web of trenches inhabited by the British soldiers, the effects of post traumatic stress disorder, and the racial injustice and brutality in the American barracks and camps are particularly excellent. Fans of Marcus Sedgwick, Lois Lowry and Elizabeth Wein will love this romantic yet unflinching look at teenagers coming of age during World War I.