The Brightwood Code

Little, Brown. May 2024. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780316045650.
Gr 8 Up–Set against the backdrop of post-WW I America, this is a suspenseful mystery with a rich historical narrative. The story follows Edda, a former Hello Girl who operated switchboards, translated, and passed code on the frontlines. Now Edda is living in Washington D.C., struggling through the aftermath of her wartime experiences and what we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder. While Edda tries to navigate civilian life, working as an American Bell telephone operator, she is thrust into a web of intrigue when a coworker dies and she receives a call demanding that she reveal the truth about “Brightwood.” With the help of her charismatic neighbor Theo, Edda embarks on a journey that will force her to confront her past. Hesse’s writing is compelling, drawing readers into Edda’s world and keeping them enthralled until the very end. The novel is a gentle exploration of trauma and the power of confronting one’s past in order to find healing and redemption. Additionally, this novel highlights the nearly forgotten endeavors of women whose wartime sacrifices have been largely disregarded; women whom, despite their patriotism, were denied veteran status and largely omitted from history.
VERDICT An evocative novel that seamlessly blends elements of mystery, history, and psychology, this is a must-read for anyone looking for a thought-provoking puzzle that explores the lasting impacts of war. Highly recommended for any collection but particularly for libraries where Alan Gratz or Elizabeth Wein books are popular.

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