I almost never review brand-new books, but I just had to make an exception to recommend this one!
Wait For Me¸ Caroline Leech, 2017.
It just came out a few months ago so I won’t do a full-fledged recap with spoilers, but I just could not pass this one up. I blew through it in a weekend because I just could not manage to put it down! Partly because it’s like someone wrote a book to spec for me (it’s my favourite subgenre of People Having Romantical Troubles During Wartime (thanks, Fug Girls!)—People On Opposite Sides of Conflict Falling In Love, which is a surprisingly hard genre to find and even harder to find done well—and I don’t want to think about what this says about my psyche, probably nothing good), and partly because it’s just a ripping good tale. It’s a sparkling example of what I feel there isn’t enough of these days—good old YA historical fiction with a side of romance. No magic required, no Gossip Girl-style intrigues, no dystopian steampunk reimaginings of the period, nothing. I love it. God, if only the world would publish more so I can get my fix!
Lorna, our protagonist, lives on her family farm in Scotland, working away and going to school after both her brothers have gone to war (one on the front lines, one in London). She’s scraping by with her father, the housekeeper, and their Land Girl, when her father applies for and receives a German prisoner of war to help work on the farm. Luckily for everyone, Paul speaks some English, and things go about as you can imagine from there. (Spoiler alert: love story.) I love that this book takes place at the end of the war—there have been about a million and eight books written about the outbreak of the war, the Blitz, the evacuations from London, and so on, but not nearly as many about the dragging end.
This is one of those books that does the balance of romance vs. ordinary life very, very well. The romance part is well done but not overwhelming, and it’s not that other YA mainstay, life with the teeniest smidgen of romance across the top to keep people interested. (And by people I mean me. Is it so wrong that I love a book with a nice hearty romance plot without it turning into A Romance Novel?) One of the things I appreciated so very much, and that’s often skimped on in YA novels, is that almost all of the characters were extremely well developed. They had flaws and virtues and weren’t colourless foils to Lorna—I’m thinking in particular of Iris, Lorna’s best friend, because frequently in these books the friends get two or three uninspiring lines designed to say something about the power of friendship and/or love, but Iris has a character arc all her own. Nellie, the Land Girl on the farm, doesn’t exhibit quite as much of an arc, but definitely has her own thoughts, plot, feelings, and doesn’t fall into a stereotype.
Unfortunately, the only character who doesn’t particularly exhibit any faults is Paul, the German love interest. Paul is pretty spectacular from the get-go. His major flaw is his appearance, being terribly burned in the face on D-Day, but besides that he bears very little ill will to his captors and isn’t all that bitter about things. Even as he withdraws from Lorna, it’s to protect her instead of punish her, and it turns out he’s almost indispensable on the farm to Lorna’s father as well. This is a pretty minor nitpick, after all—do not get me wrong, it’s for the best this book didn’t come out when I was fifteen or I would have become completely and utterly obsessed with it to a worrying degree—but it’s the only thing that niggled at me besides an inspired desire to give as many of the characters typical Scottish names as possible.
I just…go read this book! It’s so wonderful and sweet and engrossing. It has some drama and terror that’s era- and age-appropriate (not too old, not too babyish), it has characters who grow and change and develop, it’s based on true events, and it’s wonderfully written. The author has another book coming out next year, which I should probably just go ahead and preorder right now if I’m being honest. Go get this book. I’ll lend you my copy!