ISBN 10: 0061730920 / ISBN 13: 9780061730924
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When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero.

There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together.

Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad—Justin, Wolf, and Charlene—the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.

National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick has written a visceral and compelling portrait of life in a war zone, where loyalty is valued above all, and death is terrifyingly commonplace.

From the Author:

Sometimes a book begins with a single, unforgettable image.

A few years ago, I had the privilege of working on an unusual peace demonstration─one that united Vietnam vets with recent veterans from the war in Iraq and old-fashioned peaceniks. These unlikely groups were brought together by the American Friends Service Committee, the Quakers. 

As a group, we arranged more than 3,600 pairs of combat boots, each one tagged with the name of a soldier who'd died in Iraq or Afghanistan, in a display that was meant to symbolize the real human cost of the war. Nearby, we laid out a pile of civilian shoes to symbolize the uncounted men, women and children who'd died in Iraq.
One pair of shoes caught my eye. It was a pair of sneakers, just the right size for a ten-year-old boy.  I instantly saw that boy being shot in the chest, his small body flung into the air from the force of the blast. As much as I tried to forget such a horrific image, I couldn't. And so I spent the next few years imagining how such a thing could happen.
Purple Heart is a fictionalized look at that death, and how two young American soldiers may or may not have been involved in it.  It isn't an anti-war book. It isn't a pro-war book. It's an attempt to portray how three children─two eighteen-year-old Americans and a ten-year-old Iraqi boy─have been affected by war.

It's estimated that more than 650,000 civilians have died in Iraq. Because this war has been fought in cities, in and amongst families, civilian fatalities have become the "signature" of this conflict─causing profound moral conflicts for soldiers and profound losses for those families.

I finished this book with as many questions as I had when I started. I came away with a deepened respect for our soldiers, a better appreciation of life in a war zone, and a strengthened commitment to peace. My hope is that readers will, too. 

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