Open Fire

Carolrhoda. Mar. 2020. 264p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781541572898.
Gr 8 Up–In 1917, 17-year-old Katya knows the challenges of living in Petrograd: regular protests, food shortages, and the loss of life while the war with Germany continues. She does her best to contribute by working in a munitions factory, but when her brother Maxim deserts from the army, Katya enlists with the all-female army battalion. The challenges and rewards of training, her conflicting feelings about war and revolution, and her friendship with a socialist writer combine to make Katya consider the realities and nuances of life in Russia in 1917, while also simply trying to survive. Lough moves into historical fiction with ease as the book blends actual events from 1917 Russia into the narrative. The rapid changes of the period—the fall of the Tsar, the provisional government, the rise of the Bolsheviks, and the war—are comprehensive but not overwhelming for readers. The plot is fast-paced, without losing the history and context of the period. Katya and the supporting characters are well developed and conflicting beliefs about the war and the revolution are explored from multiple perspectives. This is a great option for readers who enjoyed Sherri L. Smith’s Flygirl, Elizabeth Wein’s “Code Name Verity” series, or Kathryn Lasky’s Night Witches.
VERDICT A lesser-explored time period is given a compelling and interesting narrative through well-developed characters. Give to readers who enjoy historical fiction and strong female characters.

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