Berry, Julie. Lovely War. Fiction. Viking, 03/2019. 512pp. $18.99. 978-0-451-46993-9. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 9-12.
A gorgeous and lush YA romance set during WW I is framed by a quarrel between the Greek gods representing the novel’s big themes of love, war, art, and death. When James meets piano player Hazel, they have only a few days together before he leaves for the front, and though they have never even kissed, it’s clear that theirs is a love for the ages. Hazel signs up to entertain the troops in France, where she befriends Colette, who has survived a German massacre, and Aubrey Evans, a black musician (all other main characters are white) who plays with real-life Jim Europe’s 369th Infantry ragtime band aka the Hellfighters. Colette’s clandestine meetings with Aubrey expose the horrific bigotry that the black soldiers faced from their compatriots as well as the confining sexism of the time. Both epic and intimate, the novel contrasts the minutely detailed horrors of the trenches with the exquisite intensity of love, particularly during an enchanting interlude when the lovers meet in Paris. None of the protagonists are unscathed by the war, but readers will be swept away by the glorious story and the message that, in the end, love conquers war and death. Review based on an ARC.
Hayley Beale, San Francisco University High School