Lines of Courage

Written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Review by Valerie Loh

This gripping WWI adventure weaves together the stories of five young people from different countries, whose lives are irrevocably changed by war.

Austro-Hungarian Felix witnesses the assignation of Archduke Ferdinand, which unleashes a series of global events leading to unimaginable hardship and millions of deaths. Felix wants to be brave and find courage. Elsa is a German major’s daughter who wants to discover friendship. British Kara wants to use her Red Cross training to be a nurse or doctor, whilst French Juliette seeks her family after her village is destroyed. Meanwhile, unarmed Russian Dimitri strives to survive the misery of life in the trenches.

We learn that wanting does not guarantee getting. However, by extending kindness to others, we discover courage grows. By revealing the experience of these five very different characters from the varying countries involved in the conflict, WWI is brought into focus in all its complexity, whilst showing the deprivation, terror, hunger, and the hatred war brings. Yet, through a series of remarkable coincidences over this four-year period the five teenagers’ lives entwine. Maturity occurs against a period of occupation and bombings.

This impeccably researched novel will provide opportunity for discussion on an important period in history that should never be forgotten. It reveals how this ‘war to end all wars’ unfolded and why. The stories of the characters overlap to show how war touches everyone, on all sides of the conflict, as they are exposed to contrasting life and death experiences. Highly recommended as an enlightening novel that concludes neatly with a satisfying ending. Ages 12-18 and beyond!