Words on Fire
Audra has often felt like she is too shy and quiet, especially compared to her father, who entertains people with his magic tricks and stories of his travels. But in Lithuania in 1893, the people are on edge as Russians take over their lands and attempt to destroy their customs, from celebrations to prayer to language. After Audra's parents are arrested, she finds herself alone, headed to find a person she has never met, where she is offered a choice: she can join the book smugglers who believe that words are the key to keeping freedom in Lithuania, or she can turn in the smugglers in exchange for her parents' freedom.
This is not as compelling as A Night Divided or The False Prince trilogy, in my view. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine, especially when it highlights people in places that may not be widely referenced in other books for a target audience, so this book checks that box. Audra is also a strong character who uses clever thinking in many circumstances, and who feels fear and acknowledges it. The drawback for me is its repetition - it takes Audra a little too long to feel the power of language or understand why it matters, and after she decides that it's important, too much of the book is spent emphasizing that point. The other characters tend to operate fully for Audra's benefit and seem to have few conflicting needs, interests, or lives beyond her development.
This book is similar to Resistance, by this author, in that a strong young woman transforms herself for a cause, but this book is less disturbing and better suited for upper elementary readers. With a fair amount of action and little ambiguity in messaging, this book will likely appeal to a range of readers.
"Every book had suddenly become a life I could save, something that breathed out ideas as unique to the world as every person was unique."
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