Brooks, Martha. Queen of Hearts. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011. 224 p. Grades 6-12. Historical Fiction. (YALSA BFYA List).
Marie Claire is a 15-year-old girl growing up in Manitoba, Canada during the early years of WWII. Her Uncle comes to visit, but gets tuberculosis and spreads it to the children of the family. They are sent to live in a local sanatorium to chase the cure; this is where Marie Claire loses her brother, falls in love and discovers friendship.
Review: I haven’t read a young adult novel like this before. It was eye opening and incredibly interesting. Reading about TB during WWII is not a subject that I have read before. It is at once a war novel and about being sick and about growing up. The unique take on these three stories creates an amazing book that captivates the reader from page one.
Queen of Hearts is a traditional young adult novel in that it is a coming of age story. Brooks does a wonderful job of creating a character that is relatable in a situation that many people never experience and don’t think about. Marie Claire is harsh, nice, weak, and strong all at once. She loves and she hates with equal measure. The passion that Brooks brings to these characters makes this novel a compelling read. While the subject matter, “growing up in a hospital bed” doesn’t sound appealing, the characters are so alive that it makes a depressing subject irresistible. Marie Claire also is continually struggling internally, with her father, with her mother, and with her guilt over her brother’s death, which makes readers accept her and her story.
The characterization throughout this novel reminds of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Hazel is accessible because John Green writes her in such a realistic way that you want to know more. Marie Claire is written in the same way. Even though she is a character from the past, she is real. I could see myself being friends with Marie Claire and I think that is a sentiment that could be shared with young adults.
I think this could be a good book to recommend as a read alike to The Fault in Our Stars. I would also recommend Queen of Hearts to someone who is just beginning to become interested in historical fiction, because the characterization is so powerful that the setting can melt away at times and make you forget that you don’t live in the Canadian prairie during WWII.