Operation Oleander by Valerie O. Patterson0
Ninth-grader Jess Westmark had the best of intentions when she started Operation Oleander to raise money for a girls’ orphanage in Kabul. She named her charity for the oleander that grows both in her Florida hometown and in Afghanistan, where her father is deployed. But on one of her father's trips to deliver supplies to the orphans, a car bomb explodes nearby and her father is gravely injured. Worse, her best friend’s mother and some of the children are killed, and people are blaming Operation Oleander for turning the orphanage into a military target for the Taliban. Is this all Jess’s fault?
Operation Oleander by Valerie O. Patterson is the tale of a young woman who just wants to do something right by the world. Jess knows that sending care packages to an orphanage in Afghanistan is the right thing to do and she loves the fact that she is helping people outside of her own country. Because she lives on a military base, she faces mixed feelings about her charity project but it only amplifies when the news of a bombing reaches the base. As news filters in through the system, she finds out that the bombing happened at the orphanage while her father's unit was dropping off supplies. The disastrous effects of the bombing are blamed on Jess's efforts and suddenly everyone wants to cover it up. All Jess wants is to help the children just like her father and her best friend's mother would've wanted.
I really adore the plot of the story. It something that I can relate to very easily because I have always wanted to do something like what Jess did. She managed to give assistance to the "enemy" during a war that was fraught with conflict and she bonded with people who she was supposed to hate. I've always wanted to go into a war zone and do humanitarian work so I definitely was excited to read this story. After reading it, I knew that this was my sort of book.
Jess faces a lot of emotional trauma through the story as she struggles between what she thinks is right and everyone else tells her is right. From the beginning, it seems like no one is standing behind her. She feels like her friends don't believe in her cause and that they are just waiting for her to give up. But she refuses to. When the bombing happens and it is revealed that her father is injured and her best friend's mom is killed, everyone urges her to give up this misguided idea of helping them. Her only thoughts are of other people as she tries to keep her head above water. All she knows as she tries to do what she thinks is right is that helping those orphans was what the members of that unit wanted. She is a strong and courageous main character that knows she has a work to do and won't let anyone stop her from doing it. Screw the adults. She was creating her own path.
The two best friends that dominated the beginning of the book was Sam and Meriwether. Sam is the son of a high up military officer who everyone seems to think shouldn't hang around the lower class soldier's families. He is the definition of calm and collected in the story. My friends would call him the voice of reason in that group of friends. Through everything, Sam stands by Jess no matter what, even though he agrees that what she is doing isn't worth it. Meriwether in the beginning is a better friend than Sam but when her mother dies, she can't seem to handle being around Jess. Just like everyone else, she blames her for the death of her mother. I feel bad for the downfall of their relationship even though by the end they seem to be friends again or at least something similar to it.
I love this book. I would read this book again. It is definitely the perfect book for me.