Saturday, 30 August 2014

Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens

Title: Valentine Joe
Author: Rebecca Stevens
Published by: Chicken House
Publication date: 1st May 2014
Pages: 160
Genres: Middle grade/War/History
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Buy the book (Waterstones) | Buy the book (The Book Depository)

Rose goes to Ypres in Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great War. There, the name of one boy stays in her mind: fifteen-year-old Valentine Joe. That night, Rose hears marching and when she looks out of her window, she sees a young soldier...

Unfortunately, this is one of those three-star reviews, a.k.a one of those reviews which is difficult to write because you didn't love it but you didn't hate it either.

We'll start with what irked me a little.

Valentine Joe was on the brink of being slightly too young for me, which is no fault of the book of course, but the language was very simple and didn't go into much depth about the war. That really disappointed me because history is one of my favourite subjects and I've been interested in the war ever since I was really young. This is a MG book so it makes sense that the language would be simple, but it was almost bland. Not to mention the book was written in third person, which can work occasionally, but this time it just made me feel so detached from the characters. I didn't connect with them at all.

It was slow to start with, too, but soon enough I was joining Rose on her search for Joe, through trenches and barracks to vintage cafes and a mysterious hotel. I enjoyed it, but I had expected it to be phenomenal just wasn't. It was okay. It's set in Ypres, a place I've wanted to visit since way before I discovered one of my relatives is buried there, as he was killed in WWI. And it was clear that the author had done a LOT of detailed research, right down to what a visitor might see from the window of the Eurostar as it pulls into the city.

If you're a fan of war stories then it's highly likely you'll enjoy this, but don't expect it to be completely mind blowing. In a word, Valentine Joe is bittersweet.


  1. I love your font scheme. I have the same problem where I like some middle grade fiction but some of it is a little too simple. I really liked Escape From Mr Lemoncello's Library (maybe because it is bookish).

    Amelia @ YA Bookologists (

    1. Thank you :) I haven't heard of that one, I'll have to look it up ^-^

  2. Hmm, I definitely agree with you on a lot of this - giving it the same rating. It was good, but after that rush at the beginning, it seemed very hasty. One minute we're on the eurostar and the next BAM you're in Belgium - that isn't how it works as for one thing, France is in between.
    Like you said, it certainly didn't reflect Ypres in the best light. Ypres is probably one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to, and so much more could have been done with that setting - but it wasn't.
    Great review x

    1. Thanks :) Yes, it had a lot of potential, especially being the short book that it is - it could have been longer and more detailed, perhaps ending up with a plot without so many holes... It's a pretty forgettable book, too. It's been over a month since I read this now and I can't remember: was it ever explained why Rose could see this boy?

    2. Sorry, Holly, but you're wrong. You can get the Eurostar direct from London to Brussels and although it goes through a tiny bit of France it only takes two hours. BAM!

  3. 3 star reviews are always the hardest to write!

    Middle grade books are kind of my go-to books when I'm feeling bored. I don't know why, must be because of Percy Jackson. But I also like historical fiction... which makes this seem like a good book. Hmm... might give it a chance.

    - Joy @ The Bookshelf Intruder

    1. They are, I wish I didn't have to write them! Hopefully if you try this book you'll enjoy it more than I did. :)

  4. Three star reviews are the bane of my existence to write...but you did such a great job with this one!

    I was looking at this at the library a few days ago and was really tempted to pick it up, not realising it was a Middle Grade novel. I love History, though, so may still give it a chance. Hopefully, I'll find the author's writing has enough details - I need to know everything about a scene or character when reading!

    -Sophie :) x

  5. I'm sad you didn't enjoy it that much! I loved this book, I thought the author managed to pack in a great story in just a couple of hundred pages.

    Under The Mountain