Patterson, Valerie O. Operation Oleander
5 March 2013, Clarion Books
E ARC from Netgalley.com
Jess is committed to collecting school supplies for a girls' orphanage and school in Kabul, even though some people on the military base where she lives don't think it is appropriate. Jess was an orphan as well, and is glad that her father and her best friend Merriweather's mother are delivering the supplies... until a bomb at the orphanage kills Merriweather's mother and gravely injures her father. Jess still feels that it is important to help out the orphanage, especially since they have to rebuild, but with her own mother off in Germany helping her father recuperate, and the commander at the base (and father of another good friend) telling her that she needs to stop, she doesn't know what to do. Also bothering her is the fact that Merriweather holds her responsible, and will be moving because of her mother's death. How can Jess convince people that her charitable acts need to continue even in the face of evil and violence?
Strengths: Interesting depiction of a military family dealing with issues of deployment. Some books deal too much with the entire family; I liked how this centered on Jess. The cover is fabulous. (Oleander grows in both Florida and Kabul, which is why Jess picks it for her project name.)
Weaknesses: I wish that more attention had been given to Jess's background-- what circumstances made her an orphan, and how did her family adopt her, etc. I would also have like to more a little bit more about Warda, the girl at the orphanage with whom Jess really connected.