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Purple Heart Paperback – February 15, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray; Reprint edition (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061730920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061730924
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #483,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“In this suspenseful psychological thriller…McCormick raises moral questions without judgment and will have readers examining not only this conflict but the nature of heroism and war.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“McCormick builds the plot subtly and carefully with rich, spare prose.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Gripping details of existence in a war zone bring this to life.” (ALA Booklist)

“Many of the soldiers in Iraq were not yet teenagers when this war began. What they and the children of Iraq are experiencing is not a political issue-it’s a human issue. PURPLE HEART is a visceral and affecting portrait of their world.” (—Bob Woodruff, ABC News)

From the Author

Sometimes a book begins with a single, unforgettable image.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of working on an unusual peace demonstration─one that united Vietnam vets with recent veterans from the war in Iraq and old-fashioned peaceniks. These unlikely groups were brought together by the American Friends Service Committee, the Quakers. 

As a group, we arranged more than 3,600 pairs of combat boots, each one tagged with the name of a soldier who'd died in Iraq or Afghanistan, in a display that was meant to symbolize the real human cost of the war. Nearby, we laid out a pile of civilian shoes to symbolize the uncounted men, women and children who'd died in Iraq.

One pair of shoes caught my eye. It was a pair of sneakers, just the right size for a ten-year-old boy.  I instantly saw that boy being shot in the chest, his small body flung into the air from the force of the blast. As much as I tried to forget such a horrific image, I couldn't. And so I spent the next few years imagining how such a thing could happen.
Purple Heart is a fictionalized look at that death, and how two young American soldiers may or may not have been involved in it.  It isn't an anti-war book. It isn't a pro-war book. It's an attempt to portray how three children─two eighteen-year-old Americans and a ten-year-old Iraqi boy─have been affected by war.

It's estimated that more than 650,000 civilians have died in Iraq. Because this war has been fought in cities, in and amongst families, civilian fatalities have become the "signature" of this conflict─causing profound moral conflicts for soldiers and profound losses for those families.

I finished this book with as many questions as I had when I started. I came away with a deepened respect for our soldiers, a better appreciation of life in a war zone, and a strengthened commitment to peace. My hope is that readers will, too. 
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Patricia McCormick is a two-time National Book Award Finalist whose books include "Cut," "SOLD," "Never Fall Down," and the young readers edition of "I am Malala." SOLD, based on McCormick's research in the brothels of India, has been made into a feature film due out in fall 2014.

Her debut novel, "Cut" is a sensitive portrayal of one girl's struggle with self-injury; it has sold nearly a million copies. "SOLD," a searing novel written in vignettes, and "Never Fall Down," based on the true story of a boy who survived the Killing Fields of Cambodia, were National Book Award finalists. Her other books, "My Brother's Keeper", and "Purple Heart" have received numerous awards.

She worked recently with Malala Yousafzai, on the young readers' edition of "I am Malala," the story of the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for standing up for her right to an education.

For more information: http://www.pattymccormick.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Patricia-McCormick/150993641605301

Customer Reviews

Very well written with a real surprise ending.
The Army doctor assesses him regularly to determine if his other injuries will be permanent as well.
Teen Reads
Even with that sad ending, overall it was a great book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Teen Reads on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It is quite a shock to be in a war zone one moment and to wake up in a hospital bed the next, barely able to move.

Matt Duffy, a private in the U.S. Army who is serving in the Iraq War, opens his eyes to a doctor poking his feet with a sharp object, testing his nervous system. He is having flashbacks from the attack, a strange sequence of events that seems to culminate in a child being shot and an explosion right next to him. Matt doesn't remember exactly what happened, just a series of bizarre details from the alley: a stray dog sifting through garbage, a candy wrapper caught on a coil of razor wire, and the resonation of a muezzin call for the mosque. Then a man speaks to him "on behalf of the President of the United States and the citizens of a grateful nation," and he is awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. The man goes on to tell Matt, "Your mission now, son, is to get better." But such an order is easier said than done.

Matt has to relearn to walk and think. He has constant headaches and is medicated for them. One of his legs drags, a permanent injury. The Army doctor assesses him regularly to determine if his other injuries will be permanent as well. His buddy, Justin, comes to visit him in the hospital, and he tells Matt, "You're fine. You've got a black eye, but to tell you the truth," Justin jokes, "it's actually an improvement." Matt discovers that Justin, while under heavy fire, carried him out of the attack zone --- he saved Matt's life. And Justin tells him what he remembers of the attack:

"We got separated...So we end up in an alley...and the bastards jump out of their car and disappear inside a house at the far end of the street. So we jump out of the Humvee and take off on foot. As soon as we do, we start taking fire...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By James F. Booth on December 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up from my shelves to read recently mainly because I'd been reading a LOT of more light-hearted novels and so felt I needed something more serious to kind of balance it all out. I've also read a tiny bit of McCormick before ("Cut" and her story in "Up All Night") and was excited to read this new book of hers. This is a great book and is written so well. It's told in third person but mainly focuses on Matt and his story is so compelling. There's a bit of a mystery to it as Matt is trying to put the pieces back together of just what exactly happened to give him the head injury. The first half of the book details his recovery and the second half deals with him getting back out into the war. I don't think I've read a story about a soldier in a war, especially one still going on, and it hits you emotionally, reading about what these soldiers go through. This book opened my eyes and gave me a new-found appreciation for soldiers going into war. The relationships between everyone are clearly defined and the interactions are written realistically. This is definitely a book that needs to be read by everyone, no matter what age.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Garry Prowe on August 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm disappointed with this young adult novel; the plot is simply too predictable. This book, however, is valuable in another way. It clearly illustrates how warriors with a brain injury are often sent back to the field of battle prematurely. Like a good soldier, our protagonist Matt is anxious to return to his outfit. He under-reports the severity of some of his symptoms. Patricia McCormick makes it clear that Matt is still suffering from considerable impairment when he is judged fit for duty. His fellow soldiers quickly recognize that Matt is not quite "right." In this condition, Matt is a liability to himself and his comrades. It's good to know that the Department of Defense is studying the possibility of bio-markers that will indicate the presence and severity of a brain injury, thereby preventing warriors like Matt from prematurely reentering the battle.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Mitchell Wander on May 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Patricia McCormick went through great lengths to develop a realistic, fictional storyline about modern-day combat in Iraq. She focused on a small group of individual soldiers, emphasizing the perspective of Matt, a soldier wounded during a combat operation that he cannot fully remember. The book recounts several days of his recovery in a military hospital, including his efforts to understand what happened during the incident when he sustained the wounds.

Even for a book that appears to be targeted towards teen readers, the plot is simplistic and predictable. While the details and interactions are generally accurate and make the book very readable, that attention to detail is what held the book together, not the storyline itself.

In the "Acknowledgements," McCormick recognizes a fact checker who I believe did a commendable job. The only oversight I found was on pages 172-173 when Matt referred to his Squad Leader as both "Sarge" and "Sir." Contrary to the uneventful dialog in the book, a professional Army noncommissioned officer (NCO) supervising Matt would not have allowed either reference to slide without an on-the-spot correction.

For what comes off as a mostly balanced work of fiction, two sentences on page 123 are stunningly out of place. "Brody had called Ali an enemy sympathizer. But that's what they [Army officers] always said when a civilian got killed." It is very unlikely that a junior enlisted soldier would have that perspective given the highly publicized (to the troops in Iraq and the global media) investigations into civilian deaths in Iraq. These two lines did more damage to the political balance or neutrality of the book than any other references.
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