Imagine a life where smuggling and fighting is your only resistance against a very strong enemy. Your country may have patriotic citizens, but you know loyalty is not enough. In Words on Fire, the main protagonist, Audra, is a quiet and home-bound Lithuanian girl who has never been outside her village.
After reading the first few chapters, I put the book down– starstruck. I always loved Jennifer A. Nielsen’s captivating beginnings and action packed settings, and this book was no different. I never liked it when my own parents kept secrets from me, so I could clearly understand what was going through Audra’s head. Every night, Audra would sneak downstairs to find her parents whispering. Living in a world where her own parents kept secrets, it would be hard to place trust in them.
“Another year,” is all Audra would hear. It seemed as if she was never old enough. Moments later after her parents called Audra downstairs, Russian soldiers appeared at their front door. Her parents quickly started packing bags and burning papers, many of which were used to illegally pass the Lithunainan border.
Lithuania used to be a free country before the Russians tried taking over. Before long, every village and dirt path was patrolled by Cossack soldiers. No where was safe in Lithuania, especially if you were a book smuggler.
Right before Audra’s parents were arrested, her mother gave her a bag to deliver to a woman named Milda. Along the way, Audra meets a boy named Lukas, who is a book smuggler. Audra learns about the Russians trying to take over Lithuania; books are their only defense. Young boys and girls want to learn about their Lithuanian culture and read books. Audra is determined to learn how to read, write and become a book smuggler so she could help them.
My favorite part of the book is when Audra and Lukas try passing the border to go into Prussia. The book starts to get intense because both, Lukas and Audra, have to stay quiet to sneak into Prussia. The border line of Lithuania is surrounded by three levels of guards! The second exciting scene is when the Russians attack the church in the village of Kraziai. Audra wants to help the villagers fight the Russians, but Lukas and her grandfather, Ben, explain that books ar their way of resisting the Russians, not by using weapons. Even if Audra understands the dangers of facing the soldiers, she still tries.
Audra’s story is written in first person, and it is amazing to know what is going on in her mind. Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen is packed with adventure, bravery, and a splash of humor; Audra’s actions to help save her country inspired me in every way. The captivating details and visual imagery made me feel like one of the main characters. With the turn of every page, a new Russian attack or border line crossing keeps the readers engaged! The fast pacing helped me keep the book within my attention span for hours at a stretch. Reading Words on Fire was extremely enjoyable, not only because it was my type of genre, but it was also an inspiring and motivating book! The book reflects courage and perseverance; even if hardships and roadblocks come in your way of freedom, one should do whatever they can to free themselves from an enemy's hold!
Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic, 2019. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!