“[B]eautiful, delicate, but also with a dark side, one not to be trusted. Just like people.” This is how Jess comes to describe the gorgeous oleander blossom, a tree that grows in Afghanistan and America, the flower she has used to define her charitable cause of collecting for Afghan orphans. But Jess lives on an army base. Her father and the fathers of her friends are all soldiers, all deployed. And the plight of orphans might be closer to home than the reader thinks. When a bomb goes off and soldiers are killed, Jess is told to cease and desist. Hearing criticism in everyone’s worry, and blame in each expression of concern, Jess wonders if her care for orphans has killed the mother of a friend. But not caring would mean her father’s pain is all for nothing. The writing’s beautiful and delicate, with a dark side, like the oleander, like a teen. The story’s seen through Jess’s eyes, with all her teen confusion and pain and enthusiasm. The first chapter’s oddly bewildering. But soon anger builds—are adults really so unfeeling? Then comes growth and love and maturity. Truly a story where the character changes with the reader, where wonderful lessons can be learned, and truth hurts, Operation Oleander, by Valerie O. Patterson won my heart in surprising ways despite my initial confusion. It's vividly real, achingly honest, and a wonderful story for our times. Highly recommended for middle grade readers and adults who want to understand war, or just see through the eyes of a teen.
Disclosure: I received an uncorrected proof through the Amazon Vine program.
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About the reviewer
Sheila Deeth (SheilaDeeth)
Sheila Deeth's first novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released in print and ebook formats. Find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, etc. Her spiritual speculative novellas can be found at … more
"Many young readers will identify with the day-to-day trepidation felt by Jess, Meriwether, and the other families living on the base." —VOYA, 3Q 4P M J
"Full of detail about Army life, Patterson's elegant prose brings readers deep inside Jess's conflicted point of view and the many stresses she is under, as she reevaluates her role as a member of a military family." —Publishers Weekly
"Patterson poignantly depicts war's effect on those at home as Jess and her friends absorb and react to the events. This solid novel joins the growing number of books illustrating the war's effect on Afghan people." —Booklist