Purple Heart

( 54 )

Overview

When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero.

There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together.

Eventually Matt is sent back ...

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Purple Heart

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Overview

When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero.

There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together.

Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad—Justin, Wolf, and Charlene—the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.

National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick has written a visceral and compelling portrait of life in a war zone, where loyalty is valued above all, and death is terrifyingly commonplace.

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Editorial Reviews

ALA Booklist
“Gripping details of existence in a war zone bring this to life.”
Publishers Weekly
In this suspenseful psychological thriller, 18-year-old Matt Duffy, a private with memory problems following a traumatic brain injury, receives the Purple Heart in Iraq and gradually unravels the contradictory events that led to the honor. McCormick (Sold) sharply draws the culture of the Green Zone hospital, the camaraderie of the enlisted men and (via phone calls and letters) the gulf between life at home versus on the front. Friendship, bravado and juvenile antics counteract the soldiers' guilt, paranoia and unease around Iraqis (“ 'Enemy' was the official term. 'Insurgents' was okay, too. Everybody called them hajis, though”). Strong characters heighten the drama, especially likable Matt, but also the sympathetic hospital psychiatrist who balances complicated allegiances and legal obligations, and flinty Charlene, the sole female member of Matt's squad. As Matt remembers more and more, tension builds and he becomes confused about interpretations of the truth (and when to reveal them) within the chain of command. McCormick raises moral questions without judgment and will have readers examining not only this conflict but the nature of heroism and war. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - K. Meghan Robertson
Young private Matt Duffy leaves his mom, sister, and girlfriend to fight for his country in Iraq. One day out on patrol leads to a chase that ends with Matt and his best friend Justin separated from the rest of their squad in an alley. The exact events of what happened in the alley are unclear from the time Matt wakes up in the hospital bed in the Green Zone to the time he makes a return visit to the alley weeks later. He tries desperately both to piece everything together in efforts to gain his own peace of mind about the death of Ali, the little Iraqi boy with whom he played soccer, and to understand why Justin acts so differently around him now. While Matt is kept for observation and treatment of TBI, he visits a psychologist to help him regain his memory and has many encounters with other wounded soldiers and military leaders whose ethics seem confusing to Matt. The realities of war become frighteningly clear through this historical fiction. This is not suitable for all readers, as there is much adult language/profanity, military terminology, weapons, killing, and so forth, but it is an intriguing look into the life of a modern soldier. Reviewer: K. Meghan Robertson
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
Matt awakens dazed and confused in a hospital in Baghdad. He cannot recall what happened but he has a nagging feeling that it was not good. As he is treated for what proves to be Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) caused by an RPG attack, Matt experiences memory loss, motor planning issues, and word retrieval problems. Aside from these physical and cognitive concerns, Matt is also troubled by what might have happened in the firefight that he took part in. Over time Matt discovers that a child was killed in the fight that nearly killed him as well. When Matt returns to his unit and goes back on the dangerous streets he must patrol, he struggles to understand and remember just what happened. On a patrol Matt returns to the scene of the firefight and discovers the truth. Sadly, Matt's discovery is not what he hoped it would be and it comes on a day marked by even worse terror and loss. Purple Heart is a novel of the Iraq War. It tells the story of a handful of American soldiers serving in a place where nothing seems certain or clear cut. Through Matt's experiences the reader comes a little closer to understanding the plight of American soldiers and the Iraqi civilians they encounter in a war that has no clear boundaries. Purple Heart is a compelling book that features a gritty narrative, sometimes profane dialog, and character development that makes the young men and women in Matt's squad come to life in a touching way. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
VOYA - Nancy Pierce
Private Matt Duffy is awarded the Purple Heart during his service in Iraq, but as he recovers in a military hospital from a traumatic brain injury, he cannot remember exactly how he was injured or the events surrounding his injury. Memories come back to Matt in flashes, but they confuse him more than clarify. When Matt is asked to meet with senior officers about a complaint regarding the death of Ali, a young Iraqi boy Matt befriended, Matt begins to question how Ali died and who killed him. Was Matt at fault? Did Justin, his best friend in Iraq, kill an innocent boy? Matt is filled with doubts, and he attempts to piece together the incident by talking to the military's "evaluator," a priest, and a fellow patient who suffers from his own demons, while at the same time trying to maintain ties with his family and girlfriend back home. Nothing really becomes clear until Matt returns to the field and someone else dies. McCormick does an excellent job in tying the confusion of battle in urban Iraq to the bewilderment a young private feels as he desperately tries to understand what happened to him with a brain that will not cooperate. Where this book fails is by not giving much consideration from the Iraqi perspective, so readers do not get a clear view of all players involved. Nevertheless the author does an excellent job of putting the reader into the shoes of a young American soldier and how he copes with the fog of war. Reviewer: Nancy Pierce
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—McCormick follows up her best-selling Sold (Hyperion, 2006) with a haunting look at the soldiers in Iraq. Matt Duffy is a private who escapes dying after nearly being hit by an RPG, but cannot remember what happened to him, has a hard time grasping new things, and desperately wants to get back to his squad. Most of the book is about Matt trying to recover from TBI, the soldiers he meets in the hospital and the physical and mental problems they face, and the discovery of what really happened that day he got shot. The characters are heart-wrenching, true, and realistic. The author's research into the war is obvious and brings an awareness to readers of the situation over there that they might not otherwise have. What the text lacks is a sense of the military action. While this is a worthy purchase, teens will get more out of it if they read Walter Dean Myers's Sunrise Over Fallujah (Scholastic, 2008) first.—Richard Winters, Wasco High School, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Injured, dazed and bewildered from combat, teenager Private Matt Duffy wakes up in the infirmary to receive the prized Purple Heart for his valor in Iraq. He suffers from severe traumatic brain injury, so his memories of his last patrol are broken and hazy at best: He remembers raising the barrel of his gun to the face of an Iraqi boy and his friend Wolf coming to his rescue. McCormick builds the plot subtly and carefully with rich, spare prose. At first readers will feel nearly as disoriented as Matt as he pieces together what happened, but his clarity slowly returns, and both Matt and readers are filled with unease and a sinking dread that he may have killed the boy who haunts his memories. The minor characters are drawn just as humanely as Matt; readers will come to love and respect each young soldier who visits him in the hospital. The author tenderly calculates the guilt and trepidation that infect Matt's mind, and when he returns to patrol, what he finds on the streets of Iraq will either make him or break him. (Fiction. YA)
—Bob Woodruff
“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
"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."
Barbara A. Ward
Eighteen-year-old American soldier Matt Duffy is haunted by the memory of a young Iraqi boy killed while he and a buddy were patrolling a city street. The bits and pieces of what may have happened become clearer as he recovers from his traumatic brain injury in a military hospital. As he comes closer to the truth, he is no longer sure whether he can even trust himself, much less his superiors, who seem reluctant to examine the incident too closely. Despite the betrayal he feels, he remains convinced that there is humanity in everyone—even his enemies. The book raises many questions about loyalty, war, and those left behind, as Matt ponders the difference between his own daily existence and need to be constantly on guard versus his high school girlfriend's life, in which the biggest worry is a biology test. Especially effective is the juxtaposition between the soldiers at play and at war. Reviewer: Barbara A. Ward
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—TBI. These three initials haunt Private Matt Duffy as he awakes in the army hospital in Iraq. They stand for traumatic brain injury, and Matt remembers little of the attack that landed him in the hospital, although he experiences flashbacks in which he sees a young boy being shot. Eventually he is sent back into combat and rejoins his unit, but he must come to terms with his injury and the reasons behind the attack. Patricia McCormick's novel (HarperCollins/Blazer & Bray, 2009) is another great example of her ability to relate unimaginable situations to teen readers as she tackles the subject with sensitivity and honesty. The situation in Iraq and the soldier's experiences are captured perfectly. James Colby's no-nonsense, gruff style creates the perfect voice of a soldier. The way he expresses the feelings of the soldiers perfectly reflects the military image of well-contained emotions. The ties that bind the soldiers together and the loss they feel when one of their own is killed will keep listeners' attention and make the horrors of war even more palpable. The strong language and violent situations adds to the story's realism. The quick pace makes this perfect for reluctant readers, particularly male teens. Give this to fans of Walter Dean Myers's Sunrise Over Fallujah (Scholastic, 2008).—Sarah Flood, Breckinridge County Public Library, Hardinsburg, KY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061730924
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/15/2011
  • Pages: 199
  • Sales rank: 203,964
  • Age range: 14 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Patricia McCormick is a two-time National Book Award finalist and former journalist who has won much acclaim for her compassionate approach to hard-hitting subjects. Her book Purple Heart was a Publishers Weekly Best Book, and her book Sold, also a National Book Award Finalist, is soon to be a feature film. Other seminal books she has written are Cut and My Brother's Keeper. Patty lives in New York with her family.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 54 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(36)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(6)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 54 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 5, 2011

    For school

    The book, Purple Heart, captivates your attention not only on the plot but also the way in which it is told. Patricia McCormick not only focuses your reading on the many aspects of war but also, the drama that goes along with being in battle. I think the author could have added e a little bit more detail about the action and more detailed flashbacks to the alley where Matt was wounded and killed the little boy. Also McCormick could have focused more on the fact that Matt wanted to recover faster from his injury. I think that Patricia could have added another chapter at the end to extend on the story a little bit more. The author did a great job describing the relationship between Matt and the psychiatrist. She also could have gone into more detail about where the hospital was exactly in Sadam's palace. Over all my rating for this book would be an eight point seven.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo.com

    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. YA novels dealing with the Iraq War are beginning to appear on bookstore shelves, and PURPLE HEART offers readers a chance to experience the war through the eyes of a young soldier trying to make sense of why he is fighting and whose lives he is effecting in this controversial war.

    McCormick reveals not only the point-of-view and mindset of American troops, but also a glimpse of the life of the regular Iraqi citizen trying to cope in a country at war. Teens thinking about military service, teens that have family and friends stationed in Iraq, or teens just curious about the distant place they hear about on the news will all benefit from and appreciate the service and story of Matt Duffy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013

    To below

    Shut up, bit.ch. we all know ur a hypocrite cause you looked and saw this & came here urself & read all these reviews so you can just shut the he.ll up heck ur probably turned on by all this any way so dont even think about reporting us when ur a hypocrite.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2013

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2012

    Listen ppl......

    If u dont like cuss words then dont read the damn book. Im getting tired of hearing ppl whine and complain theres to much cussing. Im 15 an yea i cuzz but im trying to stop an its working but u no wut it dose u no good to sheild ur child away from the world let them explore. If they cuss pop their face its not abuse its disiplin get to no it. I will admit there is a few cuss words in this book an if u dont like it then dont take the book as the dictionary of cuss words take it for ppls acount on war an wut not. Im gonna tell ya a lil story i cuss at an ex bf of mine in the hallway at school an the wrong teacher was walking by at the wrong time an herd me call him a mother fudger(meaning the other word) basturd an i got sent to the principles its nit good so if u dont like it dont do its not a hard concept to grasp

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2012

    Good

    I borrowed this book from the library. It is a good read but there is a ton of swearing in it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Book review for Purple Heart

    Purple Heart is a wonderful book that keeps you hooked the whole way through. Its based on the men and women who serve in Iraq. Many of the soldiers in Iraq were are yet teenagers when this war began. What they and the children of Iraq are experiencing is not a political issue-it is a human issue. Purple Heart is a visceral and affectiong portrait of their world. I highly recommend this book. Though Patricia McCormick does use some strong laungage at many times it show the realism that goes on every day in Iraq.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    This was a great book

    There was some boring parts but it was good otherwise.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2013

    Dj

    Hey

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    Tommy

    I already got my present

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2013

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2013

    To: Anyboys

    I know who you are Jade.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2013

    Anyboys

    Make love to me? Jade

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Seth

    Okay i will i love you and ikk have something for yiu to a suprise

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    B.O.B.

    BATTLE OF THE BOOKS 2012

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  • Posted February 14, 2013

    Really good book has a really good story behind the book. This b

    Really good book has a really good story behind the book.
    This book has a very interesting story behind it. It kept me interested throughout the whole book. It was really inspirational for people who are trying to overcome injuries. The book starts off kind of slow at first, but it’s because they inform you on how matt recovered and how he struggled. After the first part the book gets really interesting and action pact. If you like books with great stories, then you have to read this book.
    Another book that I thought was really good, and also has a really good story line is “Bud Not Buddy.”

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    Anonymous

    I havent read it yet and im wondering how many pages it has?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2013

    Cato to rose

    I wanna guq you so hard.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    READ THIS

    Next person to post here will get reported to b&n

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2013

    Jasper to all

    ? Happy?

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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