Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Purple Heart is a fictionalized book written by Patricia McCormick for  youth over 13 years of age.  It is a gripping account about 18-year-old “boy soldiers” being sent to fight the war in Iraq.  As McCormick commented, “It isn’t a pro-war book or an anti-war book.”   “It’s my attempt to portray how three children — two 18-year-old Americans and a 10-year-old Iraqi boy — have been affected by the war.”   McCormick has written a convincing account about how brutal life is in the war zone, for both soldiers and civilians.  It is a heartbreaking story about how everyone suffers in war.  Purple Heart is a well-researched novel.  It was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best books of 2009.  This is a great discussion book for the classroom.

Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an Army hospital with a doctor poking his feet with pins.   He doesn’t understand why he’s there.  He has difficulty moving and his speech is garbled.   He is told he has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).  Another officer soon appears and presents him with a Purple Heart.  But, Matt doesn’t know why, and he doesn’t want the medal.  Matt wants to know what has happened to him.  He’s instructed that his job is to recover from his battle wounds.

In the following weeks, sleep brings Matt little peace.  He is haunted by the sight of a little Iraqi boy standing at the end of an alley filled with debris.  It’s always the same flashback of a strange series of events happening in slow motion.  He sees a stray dog, hears the loud call to prayer by a muezzin,  and sees an overturned car in the street.  Suddenly there is a silent flash of light and the young boy is lifted off his feet into the air.  There is a loud explosion next to Matt.

Matt’s buddy Justin, visits frequently.   Justin tells him what he remembers of the attack.  Justin saved Matt’s life that day.  Over time, Matt begins to remember more and feels Justin is holding back.  He knows something went very wrong that day.  They were in the wrong place.  They hadn’t followed orders.  Matt somehow feels responsible for the boy’s death, but he doesn’t know why.

After lengthy rehabilitation and a criminal investigation into the death of a civilian, Matt returns to his squadron.  He’s glad to be back.  There is always the dust and sand to contend with and the searing heat.  But, there is also the uncertainty of living on the edge.  There is the possibility of an ambush around every corner, and  Matt is fearful he won’t be able to pull the trigger when the time comes.  The events of that day still live in him and he wonders if he’ll ever know the truth.

McCormick isn’t afraid to tackle tough and complex issues.  Visit McCormick’s website to view her other award-winning books, Sold, My Brother’s Keeper and Cut.

Note:  Although Matt doesn’t die in this story, other soldiers do.  There are support organizations available for families who have lost loved ones to war,  Tragedy Assistance for Survivors Program (TAPS).   Military Families United honor the fallen, support those who fight, and serve military families.  The  U.S. Army has a program, Finding Strength and Hope Together,  for soldiers/veterans at risk and dealing with PTSD.  There is the  National Veterans Wellness Center in Angel Fire, NM, that helps rehabilitate veterans with PTSD. And, there is a Veterans Crisis Line where veterans can call 24 hours a day for support.

Copyright (c) 2011,  Patricia Howe Tilton, All Rights Reserved

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

14 thoughts on “Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

  1. Oh wow! This sounds wonderful. I think I have heard of it. I need to be sure to put it on my TBR list. I like that it isn’t a pro-war or anti-war. Sounds like it would be very interesting. I am going to amazon right now to add it to my wish list! 🙂


    • Thanks Abby. The book is powerful. It touched me, because there is a scene in the book that was similar to a story my grandson shared. Unlike Matt, our 20-year-old grandson was a casualty of war two years ago this month. I am very impressed with McCormick tackeling subjects others don’t. You’d like “Sold” too — Joanna Marple reviewed it on her blog Aug. 28. The book is in paperback, so it has a different cover. – Pat


  2. Thanks for a great review and for bringing this book to my attention. It looks like it’ very good. I’ll have to add it to my totally-out-of-contol TBR list 🙂


    • Susanna, I’m glad you liked the review. Patricia McCormick is an outstanding writer and this book touches you deeply. We are sending boy soldiers, who aren’t prepared to war, to kill. They aren’t prepared. I lost a grandson to the war — a boy soldier. I devote an entire week to books for military families just before Memorial Day. As I told Abby, you’d enjoy her other books, too. I know, I have that long TBR list. — Pat


  3. Patricia McCormick’s writing is so gripping and evocative. I began reading this book, but didn’t finish it before it needed to go back to the library — at some point I will return to it. I have read two others of her books, and have been knocked sideways by her ability to put the reader into the heart of a difficult story.

    Great trailer!

    Did you know that Patricia McCormick will be the faculty person for the second week of the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Conference in July 2012? A week devoted solely to YA writing has been added to Writers’ Summer, and she is the key resource person. If I had any thought of writing for YA, I would extend my stay over to the second week. (However, I don’t see YA as part of my particular skill-set.)

    Thank you for this review, and as always for your excellent way of relating the book to real life and to organizations that are available to help people going through such issues. Your blog seems unique and valuable for this added aspect.


    • Beth, you need to finish the book! I have read all her books, except “My Brother’s Keeper.” As a journalist I would have tracked down stories like this. I would like to write the kind of books that McCormick is writing. Lisa Ling did a special program last night about veterans returning from the war on her “Our America” series on the Oprah Winfrey Network.. It was so powerful. I still get chills thinking about it — they will replay it many times.. I hope you have access to OWN. I just saw so many damaged soldiers, men and women. What was really interesting, was how during a very intense treatment program in New Mexico, the wives let go and expressed the depth of their anger, despair, love, fear and so on. They were actually tired of their husband being called heroes, and they were neglected! The family members left behind are the heroes.

      Yes, I saw that Patricia is going to be a presenter at the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Conference next July. I would like to attend, but don’t know yet. Emma has certainly introduced us to some interesting authors and experts in the publishing world through her Hub.

      And, thank you for the glowing remarks about relating books to real life. I hope the resources are helpful. You never know who you touch!. I know TAPS saved our son’s family. — Pat


  4. Beth, yes I had noted that Patty McCormick will be at Southampton. I have to say I have truly loved the three I have read so far of hers and believe I would love this too. She is such a sensitive author. Pat, do you know if this text is used in classrooms? This sounds like a great YA for boys.


    • Joanna, I asked about how her books, like Purple Heart, Sold and Cut, were received in schools. From what I gather they are in the classroom. You only need to look at her blog, as she has a lot of teens writing her because they are doing research and have read her books. And, she does a lot of school visits. I wished I could have interviewed her, but she is very busy. Her mother just passed. I didn’t want to bother her. When I found the video clip, i added something special to the review. It is a great YA for boys –and girls. There is a female in their squadron.:) Would like to know if the text is used in the classrom. Pehaps she will see the review and answer your question. –Pat


  5. Very informative review Pat about a very powerful and gripping book. It will go on my list to.
    Patricia is a fantastic writer and I hope she sees this review, who knows she may contact you…
    Thanks for sharing Pat.


    • Diane, I am glad you liked the review — I know you also like Patricia McCormick’s writing. I really liked how Patty addressed this subject. See Beth’s note below about her teaching at Stonybrook. I had a wonderful organization contact me about this and other reviews I’ve written. They are into peace and social justice issues — will be sharing somehing about them at a later time. You never know who is reading what you publish. Again, thank you. – Pat


  6. this book sounds great to me too, but like another, I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to read it. My heart would ache so much, such a sad thing for her to have seen. She’s brave. ❤
    thanks so much, Patricia… My kids would love it,
    Denise of Ingleside


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