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Purple Heart Paperback – February 15, 2011

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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.

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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: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #310,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 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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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By TeensReadToo on September 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Going to war wasn't a first choice for Matt Duffy, but it seemed like the most sensible. He hadn't done that great in school, so college for him didn't really make sense. On the other hand, his little sister was a good student, and joining the Army would provide the necessary funds to send her to college when the time came.

Whatever his reason for joining up, Matt found himself in the middle of Iraq doing the patriotic thing for his country. Even though they warned the young soldiers during basic training, he was surprised by the heat, the noise, and the people. There were slow days with routine missions; welcome days after some of the scary attacks Matt had witnessed. Recently, they'd lost their squad leader, a fellow named Benson.

Amazing that this fact is one of the few things Matt can remember as he wakes up and finds himself in a hospital, answering questions from a man in scrubs standing at the foot of his bed.

When Matt begins to ask questions of his own, he learns that when he and his partner, Justin, followed an insurgent into a dead-end alley, there was an explosion and he suffered a TBI (traumatic brain injury). With the exception of a weakened right leg, everything else seems to be in working order. Doctors are prescribing rest and saying he'll be back with his unit in no time.

With time to think, Matt is trying to remember just exactly what happened. As events of the attack begin to come back to him, he realizes he may have been responsible for something terrible. How can he bring back the memories - and does he really want to remember?

Patricia McCormick shares the life of an American soldier in Iraq.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Homer on July 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book totally. It had a very interesting plot and you really got to know the characters and what they were feeling as they are risking their lives in Iraq, how their unit became their family. I would have given this book 5 stars but I gave it 4 because it made me cry in the end. Even with that sad ending, overall it was a great book. Well done Patricia McCormick! =D
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