Things are heating up quickly for Paul and his sisters Marie and Sylvie. Members of the French Resistance during World War II, the three siblings begin to realize that war is only shades of gray and the black-and-white divides they want to see in their Nazi-occupied town simply don’t exist. As Paul’s hair-trigger temper leads him to work with hot-headed Jacques on ever-increasing acts of terror, Marie finds herself taking care of a fallen Resistance fighter while Sylvie struggles to face the fact that she doesn’t hate the Nazi soldier she has been dating in an attempt to gather information. With the Allies landing at Normandy and the end of the war rushing towards them, the children and their family must struggle even harder to keep faith in a time of war, death, and destruction.
The third and final book in Jablonski and Purvis’s Resistance series keeps the strong story going even as it ups the action to a breathtaking pace. Readers who loved the scenes of children fighting back against adult occupiers will still enjoy Paul and Marie’s tale and will appreciate the focus on the emotions with which the children are grappling. Both of the young teens, in addition to their family members, are constantly faced with hardship and deprivation and it has begun to wear them down to the bone. Marie is worried about her POW father and misses Henri, her and Paul’s Jewish friend who’d had to flee in book one. Paul’s anger is palpable and understandable. He can’t believe that anyone would sit by when they could fight back, but when his and Jacques’s destruction of a train leads to harsh Nazi reprisals, Paul is suddenly aware of the impact of his actions on the people around him.
There are still a few abrupt scene changes which mean that certain elements, like the fate of Sylvie’s Nazi “boyfriend,” are dropped. And I still would have liked to see a bibliography, so I could know which sources Jablonski and Purvis used, but overall this book is a strong ending to the series, pulling up from the occasionally bogged down second volume. Purvis’s art is as strong as ever, breathing real life and a strong undercurrent of tension into the story. Paul’s personal sketches are not used as much here as they were in book one, which is understandable considering what he is going through. When they are used, they are always effective.
This series has been a slam-dunk favorite in my best friend’s fifth grade classroom library, with her boys constantly checking out the first two volumes, but there’s enough action and historical interest to please middle school readers, as well. I’m thrilled to be able to add book three to her library and allow her students to enjoy the heart-pounding race to freedom along with Paul and Marie.