Teens' Book of the Month: Cross My Heart
Author: Carmen Reid
Nicole is just a normal teenager living in Brussels when Belgium is invaded by the Germans. As everything she cares about slowly falls apart, Nicole resolves to fight back. She joins the resistance with her friend Anton, determined to resist the new order. But what starts out as a child’s game quickly turns into something far more serious with much greater consequences.
This novel asks important questions about identity and how far you’re willing to go for what you believe in. Fact and fiction are blended seamlessly to immerse the reader in the grim world of war time Belgium, in which the young people are forced to grow up more quickly than they ever imagined possible and take responsibility for actions that would have been inconceivable in peace time. Cross My Heart is an excellent novel: fast-paced and taut with tension from the very first page.
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What is your favourite YA historical novel?
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Q&A with Carmen Reid
Why did you start writing this book?
I'm very interested in World War 2 because my German and British grandparents served on both sides. When I learned that young teenagers were part of the Belgian Resistance, carrying out bombings, secret missions and sabotage, I just had to find out more. Terrorism is part of our modern world and risking your life, dancing with danger, killing innocent people, standing up to brutality and never ever giving up hope - these themes all made this a fascinating story to write.
Did you enjoy the research you did for this story?
I buried myself in WW2 books, especially autobiographies, tracking down obscure titles on Amazon and at the Imperial War Museum. I wanted to know what it was really like to be there. What did people eat? (Not much). What was home life like? How did it feel to be 15 and fall in love when lives were so cheap? My heroine is tortured, sent to a prison camp and manages to escape. The research for the second half of the book was pretty harrowing. My family had to ban me from talking about concentration camps. But I found out details I could never have imagined - memorably, the woman who used to take explosives through checkpoints in her baby's pram.
What else have you written?
Cross My Heart is my 18th novel.
For teenagers, I've also written a six-book series called Secrets at St Jude's about a Californian girl who is sent to an Edinburgh boarding school.
My other 11 novels are all in the women's fiction in the romantic comedy vein, so Cross My Heart was a real change.