Adult Books for Military Teens

Adult Books For Teens

For ages around 14 years to adult. These books were published as adult books but have a child or teen as the main character.

Click on any title in this list to see a brief critique, publishing information and the cover, or scroll down and browse!



Rebel Powers Cover
Bausch, Richard. (1993). Rebel Powers. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, Ma.

ISBN: 0-395-59508-8 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0-679-75253-6
Thomas grew up in a Air Force family until he was seventeen and his father was sent to jail for stealing a typewriter. Thomas is looking back at his life and writing this from the perspective of a divorced man in his forties and sometimes the commentary of the older man is distracting. Only the first approximately fifth of the book deals directly with Thomas’s life as a military child but much of the rest of the story stems directly from his father’s misdeed and the harsh punishment the Air Force gave him.  Unlike the parents in many of these books Thomas’s father was enlisted and money problems are a big issue. He was trying to take the typewriter to pay off debts, but the book does portray him as a spendthrift with a car he could not afford.

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Bennett, James Gordon. (1990). My Father’s Geisha Delacorte Press. New York, NY.
ISBN: 0-385-30097-2 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0-671-74000-8 (Paperback – 1991 Reprint)
This episodic novel starts when Teddy is eleven and lives in California on an Army base. It ends when he is in is in his thirties. Teddy’s dysfunctional family life is the focus of the novel but Army life is woven inextricably into it, such as when major conflict arises when his mother’s refuses to fly and join her husband at overseas postings. By the end of the novel we learn that Teddy’s father had been having a long-term affair with a Vietnamese woman that started when he was overseas with the Army. From the first page of the novel there is no mistaking that this novel has a military setting. These military children are comfortable using jargon and acronyms that would baffle most people. For example, “another Article Fifteen for you,” my sister whispers” (page 1). (An Article Fifteen is a military punishment).
Recommended with reservations.

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Durable Goods Paperback Cover Durable Goods Hardcover
Berg, Elizabeth. (1993). Durable Goods. Random House Trade Paperbacks. New York, N.Y.
ISBN: 081296814X. (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-679-42208-0 (Hardcover)
Katie is twelve. Her mother is dead and her Army father is distant and sometimes abusive, especially to her 18-year-old sister. This is an examination of Katie’s family and her relationship with her friends but it is also an unflinching and often unflattering look at life for a military child. “I do not believe the army is a good idea for people with regular human hearts.” (page 63). Life on a military base is portrayed in detail, “Every morning when I wake up I hear a drill sergeant yelling pieces of songs to the straight lines of men marching, marching, all stepping onto their left foot at the same time, all dressed exactly alike, all staring straight ahead and yelling back to him” (page 5).  It is a poetically written book that will resonate with many readers for a long time.

For a longer review I wrote for the Williamsburg Regional Library, see Blogging for a Good Book


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Joy School Paperback Cover
Berg, Elizabeth. (1998). Joy School. Ballantine Books. New York. N.Y.
ISBN: 0345423097 (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-606-17137-1 (Turtleback Books Library Binding)
ISBN: 1-56895-488-3 (Large Print)

A sequel to Durable Goods. Katie now lives in Missouri and falls in love with an older man. Katie’s father mellows with his new wife. The Army does not feature so emphatically in these sequels to Durable Goods, but it is still a background.

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True To Form Cover
Berg, Elizabeth. (2002). True to Form. Random House. New York, N.Y.
ISBN: 0-7434-1134-X (Hardcover).
ISBN: 0-7434-1135-8 (Softcover)
ISBN: 0-7434-5312-3 (Large Print)
The third book in the sequence about Katie that was started in Durable Goods. It is now 1961 and Katie is thirteen. Her father sets up unpleasant summer jobs for her and a visit to her friend Cherylanne in Texas goes badly.

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Above the East China Sea
Bird, Sarah. (2014). Above the East China Sea: A Novel Knopf (May 27, 2014).
ISBN-10: 0385350112

ISBN-13: 978-0385350112

This new book by Sarah Bird will come out in May 2014 and is set again in Okinawa, the setting of The Yokota Officers Club.

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Yokota Officers Club Cover Yokota Officer’s Club Cover
Bird, Sarah. (2001). The Yokota Officer’s Club. New York. N.Y. Ballantine Books.
ISBN: 0-345-45277-1 (Ballantine Reader’s Circle Edition).
ISBN: 0-375-41214-X (Hardcover)
This riveting read would suit teenagers who are strong readers. The story opens when Bernie is 18 and is returning to her family from her first year at college. Descriptions of her present day in Guam are mixed with flashbacks to her childhood. The flashbacks describe events in her childhood that lead up to a surprising climax that explains the disintegration of the happy family she once knew. The book is set in the author’s own childhood so some of the details about the military family experience are out of date. “Wives of majors who wish to make colonel wear heels and hose in public” (page 20). But some emotional details never change, for example as Bernie arrives on an Air Force base in Okinawa that she has never seen before,  “I recognize in the distance, the comfortingly familiar bulk of the commissary, the BX, the endless stretches of runway sweeping out to the sea” (page 44).
Highly Recommended.

For a longer review I wrote for the Williamsburg Regional Library, see Blogging for a Good Book

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Red Sky at Morning Cover
Bradford, Richard. (1968 ). Red Sky at Morning. Harper Collins.
ISBN: 0-06-093210-4 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0-06-093190-6 (Paperback)
First published in 1968, this book was reprinted in 1999. Josh is seventeen and lives a privileged life in Mobile, Alabama where his father owns a shipyard. Near the end of World War II, in 1944, his father volunteers for the Navy, although he doesn’t have to as he is exempted as someone running a vital industry. When he leaves with the Navy Josh’s father arranges for Josh and his mother go to a village in the New Mexico mountains where he feels they will be safer. Josh settles in to the new life, making friends, growing up and finding beauty in the new landscape. However, his mother, removed from her known life, friends and family falls slowly apart. Josh’s father is not present in much of the book but his absence looms over everyone. This book captures the dislocation and even disintegration that can occur in some military families when the military member is absent for an extended period.


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Great Santini Paperback Cover GreatSantini Reprint Cover
Conroy, Pat. (1976). The Great Santini. Houghton Mifflin Company. New York, N.Y.
This book has been reprinted in many versions.
ISBN: 0-553-26892-9 (1987 Bantam Paperback Edition)
ISBN: 0-553-38155-5 (2002 Reprint)
ISBN: 0-937036-00-5 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0-606-03795-0 (Turtleback Library Edition)
Ben is being raised in a Marine family in the 1950s. His father is authoritarian, compulsively competitive and sometimes abusive. The military dominates the family’s life as Bull Meecham rules the family and the Marines rule Bull Meecham. It is a well-written and satisfying book. This book was made into a movie of the same name in 1979 and has been reprinted many times.

For a longer review written by my colleague at the Williamsburg Regional Library, see Blogging for a Good Book

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BoneMans Daughters

Dekker, Ted. (2009). BoneMan’s Daughters. Center Street.
ISBN-10: 1599951959 (Hardcover)
WARNING: This book contains intense, graphic violence and disturbing scenes.

Bethany’s father is in the Navy. He hasn’t been around much for years, so to Bethany  his latest deployment to Iraq is just a continuation of her normal life. Things change when he is kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq. Told in varying viewpoints, this is an intense, plot-driven thriller that drew me in. Although the main character is arguably Bethany’s father, Captain Ryan Evans, Bethany’s viewpoint is given in many chapters. This book raises issues for older teens who can form a deeper personal understanding of war and the effects of parents’ choices on their children.

Recommended for older teens (see warning above).

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Harrington, Lisa. (2011). Alice Bliss. Center Street.
ISBN: 978 0670022786 (Hardcover)

Alice Bliss is fifteen and her father is deployed to Iraq. Told in alternating viewpoints between Alice and her mother, Angie.


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