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The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Worth the read: “The War that Saved My Life”

“The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley follows a struggling heroine and a found family. It is a historical fiction book that takes place in England during WWII.

Welcome back to the fourth edition of Worth the Read, where I tell you books that I think are, as the name suggests, worth the read. This time around I read “The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley to see if it’s really all that.

Now, I know what you may be thinking. You probably read this book in middle school and think that it’s for children…. I don’t care. The library has it, so I’m just going to say that it can be read and enjoyed by high schoolers (though really, that’s how it goes for any book. I mean, C.S Lewis openly read fairy tales in his old age so, really, there’s only a minimum age to start reading and understanding.) Anyways, onto the review!

The plot: so, it’s 1939 in London and Ada lives in the slums of the city. Only around nine years old, she doesn’t know a life outside of her one room apartment, where she lives with her mom, “Mam,” and little brother, Jamie. Ada was born with a clubfoot, which means that the toes on her right foot curl upwards while the outer heel points towards the ground. This led her mom to forbid her from leaving their apartment, as well as abusing her both physically and mentally. She and Jamie later run away to go on a train to the English countryside to escape the bombing by Germany. In the countryside, the pair are introduced to Miss Susan Smith, who helps them escape their abusive home and learn what family can be.


Told in the first person, Ada walks us through her life and thought process at any given moment. Some words are intentionally spelled differently, like dialogue or Ada’s internal monologue when she pronounces things so as to emphasize her accent and others with Ada’s lower-east side accent. However, it doesn’t really impede the understanding of what’s happening. The book is very readable, given that it was written in 2015 and initially geared towards a younger audience.

Overall, a 10/10 for readability.


I love this book for so many reasons, but the main one is how Bradley portrays the recovery from abuse. I found it quite realistic. Ada doesn’t immediately bounce back once she moves in with Miss Smith, not trusting her initially and being kind of horrible to her. She questions Miss Smith’s authority, especially with Jamie, and is constantly at odds with herself as she tries to grapple both with what happened to her and what she can do now.

However, she does learn to trust others. She learns to let go of her role as the parent of Jamie and starts focusing on trying to be the child. It’s beautiful. I love seeing her struggle as she learns to read and breaks out of the mold her mom built for her. I also love watching her missteps along the way. I felt all of each character’s humanity. Miss Smith’s grief for her girlfriend’s (…and they were roommates..) death leading to her depression, Jamie’s desire to return home, Ada’s internal conflict about her feelings for her mom and her desperation to get the surgery to fix her clubfoot. All of these work together to paint a portrait of these lonely people who come together into this odd family.

I also appreciated how Bradley used the war for the storyline. While it would have been easy to keep the fact that the war was going on in the background, Bradley uses it to move the plot forward, a Chekhov’s gun, if you will. Chekov’s gun is a concept where something introduced has to be used; no frivolous details allowed. Bradley executes this perfectly. The war is a key part of her arc; it’s the reason she gets to Miss Smith, and it is involved in every moment she grows.

Overall, a 9/10 for content, if only for the inconsistency in pacing at points in the story.


I really enjoyed the writing. Because it’s told from Ada’s perspective, Bradley had the freedom to use that to its fullest potential–-and she did. The subtle changes in the language, moving from referring to Miss Smith as “Miss Smith” to “Susan” to show how Ada learns to trust and respect Miss Smith. The way Bradley writes Ada experiencing new things is wonderfully written, showing the care taken in fully developing Ada’s perspective.

I like how Bradley shows accents. While this story does take place in England, the two regions shown are very different. Ada and Jamie grew up in the lower east side of London, while Miss Smith lives in Kent. The way Bradley writes the dialogue shows the differences between Miss Smith and Ada and Jamie; the way Miss Smith’s dialogue appears with full grammar is well contrasted with the apostrophes and misspelled words of Ada and Jamie’s speech, shows the differences in their accent and further highlights the differences between them.

Overall, a 10/10 for writing.


Readability: 10/10
Content: 9/10
Writing: 10/10

This rounds out to a 9.6/10..

While this book does have action-packed moments, the majority of its action was emotional, though, unlike “Yolk,” it was far from mundane. The emotional release that each character goes through is perfectly ramped up, and it’s great to follow this story about three lonely people coming together. While maybe not necessarily geared towards a high school audience, I think that high schoolers would enjoy this. I certainly did. Truly worth the read
See this book in the library!

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