This British import gives readers a look at one of the ways women served in World War I.
A few months into the start of the Great War, Poppy, a 15-year-old parlor maid for a well-to-do British family, gets an offer from an old schoolteacher: she will pay Poppy an allowance so Poppy can train and serve as a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, a sort of unpaid junior nursing squad. Poppy begins her VAD training just as her brother, Billy, and the two sons of the family for whom she worked, Freddie and Jasper, join the army—Billy in the ranks, the others as officers. Details of Poppy's training and work in a large army hospital in England unfurl in leisurely detail from Poppy's point of view, occasionally enlivened by letters from family and friends. Poppy is pleasant but unremarkable, and the story's plot centers around an improbable half-romance between Poppy and Freddie that carries little narrative tension, so the ending, clearly a setup for a sequel, provides limited satisfaction. Though the race of the characters is never mentioned, readers will presume from the setting that they're white. For all that Poppy is working with boys wounded in a notably horrific war, the tone is light, almost distressingly so.
This mildly interesting peek into a historical setting reads like an elderly person's memoir. (Historical fiction. 12-16)