Reviews of Teen Books for Military Children

Teen Books

For ages around 10 years to 15 years

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

Page Contents For Teen Books

The Proving Ground by Elaine Alphin

When the Lights Go Out by Max Elliot Anderson

Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys by Kate Brian

Operation Homefront by Caroline B. Cooney

After the First Death by Robert Cormier

Other Bells for Us to Ring by Robert Cormier

Charlie Pippin by Candy Dawson

Till Tomorrow by John Donahue

Dove Song by Kristine L. Franklin

Taking Wing by Nancy Price Graff

Rainy Season by Adele Griffin

Road to Tater Hill by Edith Morris Hemingway

Missing in Action by Dean Hughes

Jet Set by Carries Karasyov

The Tippy Parrish Series by Janet Lambert

The Penny Parrish Series by Janet Lambert

The Jordan Family Series by Janet Lambert

The Candy Kane Series by Janet Lambert

The Mark of Merlin by Anne MacCaffrey

Searching For Atticus by Jan Marino

A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harborby Harry Mazer

A Boy No More by Harry Mazer

Heroes Don’t Run: A Novel of the Pacific War by Mazer, Harry

Joseph by Shelia Moses

Joseph’s Grace by Shelia Moses

Refresh, Refresh: A Graphic Novel by Danica Novgorodoff

Second Fiddle by Rosanne Parry

Operation Oleander by Valerie O. Patterson

Rob& by P.J. Petersen

Shut Up by Marilyn Reynolds

Out of the Blue by S.L. Rottman

War Boys by M. A. Schaffner

Rain Is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith

The Purple Heart by Marc Talbert

High Dive by Tammar Stein


Proving Ground Cover

Alphin, Elaine. The Proving Ground. (1992). Henry Holt and Company. New York. NY.
ISBN: 0-8050-2140-X (Hardcover)
Kevin’s father is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army and he has been assigned to a new base, a Proving Ground where weapons are tested. The family experience conflict on the base and in the town where Kevin goes to school. The conflict draws up to an exciting and dramatic climax when Kevin discovers that the Proving Ground and the town are in danger from an unstable youth who thinks his family’s problems stem from the government acquisition of their land in World War II. This book portrays well the problems of a military child who must move house frequently and the conflicts that can arise between a base and the surrounding community. It also talks about the difficulties faced by a military child who needs to behave well or it will be reflected on his or her parent’s career. This book portrays the everyday events of life for a contemporary military child rather than the drama of having a parent go to war.

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Impossible Knife Memory Cover

Anderson, Laurie Halse.(2014)  The Impossible Knife of Memory. Viking.

ISBN: 978-0670012091


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Anderson, Max Elliot.(2011)  When the Lights Go Out. Comfort Publishing.

ISBN: 978-1936695478 (PAPERBACK)
“Peyton Aldrich’s father is an Army colonel, who specializes in Army intelligence. His work is always top secret, which means he can’t even discuss it with his own son. Nevertheless, Peyton idolized his father, who believes that after what happened on 9/11, somebody had to help keep the country safe.” From’s Book Description


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Brian, Kate (2005). Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

ISBN 978-1416900306 (Hardcover)

ISBN 978-1416900313 (Paperback)

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Charlie Pippin Cover
Boyd, Candy Dawson. Charlie Pippin. (1987). Puffin Books. New York. NY.
ISBN: 0-14-032587-5 (Paperback)
ISBN:  0-606-03752-7 (Turtleback Library Binding)
Charlie Pippin always seems to be in conflict with her father. She knows he is a veteran of the Vietnam War and when her mother hints that during the war he lost his dreams and became the angry person that Charlie knows, Charlie embarks on a school project to learn more about the Vietnam War and hopefully something about her father’s past. Strong characters like her grandmother aid or abet Charlie. Charlie is a sympathetic character and this book is an enjoyable read. This book has a strong and sometimes simplistic peace message, but the children who read should be old enough to form their own opinions about what their parents do.

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Operation: Homefront Cover
Cooney, Caroline B. (1992). Operation: Homefront. Laurel-Leaf Books, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. New York, N.Y.
ISBN: 0-440-22689-9  (Paperback – Laurel Leaf).
ISBN: 0-553-29685-X (Paperback – Bantam Starfire Reprint)
Popular teen writer Caroline B. Cooney wrote this fast-paced book soon after the 1991 Gulf War. Like many Caroline B. Cooney books it can be slapstick funny while delving into deeper issues. Mother Rosalys is a part time kindergarten teacher who joined the reserves to pay for her schooling. Her three children thought her weekend warrior life was a joke until she was called up. “It’s military thought Laura. Before, they were Weekend Warriors and knew it. Now it’s real, and they know it. I don’t want it to be real” (page 39). After Rosalys leaves, the family compulsively watch the news and their family starts to crumble as the house and the four-year-old brother are barely looked after. By the end of the book they pull themselves together and gain a new perspective on Rosalys and themselves. An important underlying theme of this book is that the mother has a life apart from her children, even if this is a shock to the children. The cover of the paperback edition shows a woman reading a letter containing a photo of a small child. It looks like an accurate U.S. military uniform but it is not desert pattern. It is hard to know if it meant to be depicting Rosalys before she left the United States or it is inaccurate which will be a distraction to military children.

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After the First Death Cover After the First Death second cover After the First Death third cover
Cormier, Robert. (1979). After the First Death. Random House. New York. NY.
IN PRINT – This book has been reissued in at least five editions.
ISBN: 0-4402-0835-1 (Paperback re-issue of 1991)
ISBN: 0-8446-7215-7 (Hardcover re-issue of 2002)
ISBN: 0-606-04855-3 (Turtleback Library Binding of 1991)
Ben Marchand’s father joined the army late in life and is a General when the story opens. When a bus full of children is taken hostage by terrorists Ben is asked by his father to take messages between the government and the terrorists. His father tells Ben this is because he is young and non threatening, but by the end of the book the reader learns that Ben was chosen by his father because his father and the secret government agency he works for have been conducting psychological experiments on Ben his whole life and his father knows exactly how Ben will act under stressful circumstances. When Ben learns that his father sent him to the terrorists because he knew Ben would fail, Ben loses his sense of self and contemplates suicide. The story is told from three different perspectives, (Ben, a terrorist and a teen hostage) but starts and ends with Ben who becomes a victim of the high jacking even though he is miles away when it starts. Robert Cormier, as usual, writes a chilling tale that shows some people are capable of acting in horrible ways to other people. This book is a compelling and suspenseful read. Ben’s father’s job is described in such a shadowy way that it is difficult to determine if it is plausible. This is one of the few books of this type that invites older teens to think critically about the jobs their parents do and the government their parents work for. The U.S. military and the U.S. government are portrayed as bad guys but it is also suggested that they had no choice but to act as they did.
Highly Recommended.

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Cormier, Robert. (1990) Other Bells for Us to Ring. Delacorte Press.
ISBN 0385302452


Till Tomorrow Cover
Donahue, John (2001). Till Tomorrow. New York, N.Y. Farrar Straus Giroux.
ISBN: 0-374-37580-1 (Hardcover)
Twelve year old Terry arrives in France with his family to live on an army base. This book describes the feelings of a military child well, especially the constant moving and the tension between the base community and the local community. It was written based on the author’s childhood, so despite being published recently, it is historical in that the U.S. military no longer has any presence in France. The background of the books includes conception of the Berlin wall and how the US military were on alert. This makes it a useful book for discussing history and how international tensions are not just a thing of the present. It is a sensitive look at loyalty and friendship and being true to friends who are not part of the in crowd.

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Benito Runs

Fontes, Justine. (2011) Benito Runs. Darby Creek. A Division of Lerner Publishing.
ISBN: 978 0761361657 (Paperback)Benito’s father is in the National Guard and is deployed to Iraq. Written in a high-interest style with a fourth-grade reading level for reluctant readers as part of the Surviving Southside series, Benito Runs is a quick read.

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Dove Song Cover
Franklin, Kristine L.(1999).  Dove Song. Candlewick Press. Cambridge, MA
ISBN: 0-7636-0409-7 (Hardcover)
Bobbie Lynn is eleven when her father leaves for the Vietnam War and their mother insists on moving to be closer to where he leaves from, Washington State. Bobbie Lynn has to start another school and is even starting to make a friend with the strange Wendy when her father is listed as missing-in-action. Bobbie Lynn’s mother becomes so depressed that Bobbie Lynn and her older brother have to feed her, but they are scared what will happen if they reveal their problems to the authorities. The severity of Bobbie Lynn’s mother’s problems and the effect on her family make this a wrenching book, but it paints an ultimately heart warming picture of the power it shows of community and friendship.  Like Richard Bradford’s Red Sky at Morning this book shows the possible disintegration of a family with a parent who cannot cope without the absent military member.
This book won the Minnesota Book Awards in 2000.

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Graff, Nancy Price. (2005) Taking Wing. Clarion Books.

Rainy Season Cover one Rainy Season Cover 2
Griffin, Adele. Rainy Season. (1998). Hyperion. New York, NY.
ISBN: 0-7868-1241-9 (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-606-13726-2 (Turtleback Library Binding)
Eleven-year-old Lane lives in the Panama Canal Zone with her army family. A mysterious trauma is hinted at that makes Lane constantly fearful for the safety of her family members. Her brother is unstable and seemingly always on the verge of violence. Many details of army life are woven into a compelling narrative of a family that seems happy to outsiders but is being torn apart by a tragedy that no one will acknowledge. The army is portrayed as a necessary evil in Lane’s life, “I am glued to that name. It is stuck to my house, my ID, my passport, all my forms for school. Lt. Col. Beck’s dependent; that’s how the army catalogs Charlie and Mom and me” (page 139). It is a vivid portrait of a family not able to deal with tragedy.

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Hemingway, Edith Morris. (2009) Road to Tater Hill Delacorte Books for Young Readers

ISBN:  0385736770


Hughes, Dean (2010) Missing in Action Atheneum Books for Young Readers

ISBN 978-1416915027 (Hardcover)

ISBN 978-1442412484 (Paperback Simon Pulse; Reprint edition, February 8, 2011)


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Karasyov, Carries and Jill Kargman. (2008) Jet Set. HarperTeen.

ISBN: 006143177X



Missy Tippy Cover Little Miss Tippy Cover Miss America Cover Don’t Cry Little Girl Cover Rainbow After Rain Cover Welcome Home Mrs Jordan Cover A Song In Their Hearts Cover Here’s Marny Cover

Lambert, Janet. The Tippy Parish Series.

This series started publication in 1948 and is being reissued by several companies including Cascade Publishing ( and Amereon Ltd. (information about the company can be found here: or Amereon, 800 Wickham Ave, Mattituck,  NY  11952-1602. Joanna Paulsen (President), Phone: (631) 298-5100 (From InfoUSA). Tippy Parrish is sixteen when this series starts and she is at least in her twenties by the end of series. She is a military child who dates military men and finally marries one.  I cannot comment on the quality of the series as I have not read the books since I discovered them late in my search process. They may suit a teen girl who likes romances or conservative families who want their children to read books with old fashioned values. (Information taken from and

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The series consists of:

Miss Tippy  originally published 1948.
ISBN: 1930009186  (Paperback. Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

Little Miss Atlas originally published 1949.
ISBN: 0848801296 (Hardcover. Amereon Ltd, Reprint edition June 1986)
ISBN: 1930009194 (Paperback. Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

Miss America originally published 1951.
ISBN: 1930009208 (Paperback. Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

Don’t Cry Little Girl originally published 1952.
ISBN: 1930009216 (Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

Rainbow After Rain originally published 1953.
ISBN: 1930009224 (Paperback. Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

Welcome Home, Mrs. Jordan originally published 1953.
ISBN: 1930009240 (Paperback, Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

A Song in Their Hearts originally published 1956.
ISBN: 1930009240 (Paperback, Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

Here’s Marny originally published 1969.
ISBN: 1930009259 (Paperback, Research Evaluation & Statistics, December 2000)

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These further series by Janet Lambert are also being reissued by Cascade Publishing:

Lambert, Janet. The Penny Parrish Series.
There are also 6 books about Penny Parrish who is Tippy Parrish’s big sister.
This series includes: Star Spangled Summer, Dreams of Glory, Glory Be!, Up Goes the Curtain, Practically Perfect, and The Reluctant Heart. (Information taken from and

Lambert, Janet. The Jordon Family Series
The Jordans are a military family of nine children from combined families. They have no mother alive so the eldest daughter Jennifer must care for the family when her father is away.
This series includes: Just Jenifer, Friday’s Child, Confusion by Cupid, A Dream for Susan, Love Taps Gently, Myself & I, The Stars Hang High, Wedding Bells, and A Bright Tomorrow.  (Information taken from and

Lambert, Janet. The Candy Kane Series
Another military family with two daughters is the focus of this series.
This series includes: Candy Kane, Whoa Matilda, One for the Money, and A Song in Their Hearts. (Information taken from and

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Marino, Jan Searching For Atticus Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 1997 ISBN: 0689800665

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ABoyAtWar2 aboyatwar
Mazer, Harry. (2002 ). A Boy at War: A Novel of Pearl Harbor. Simon and Schuster.
ISBN: 0-68-984160-4 (Paperback)
ISBN: 0-43-935207-X (2003 Paperback Reprint)
When fourteen year old Adam moves to Hawaii with his mother, small sister and Navy father, he goes to a civilian school for the first time in his life. He makes friends with a boy of Japanese ancestry, Davi, and his father strongly disapproves. Adam sneaks off to go fishing with his new friend and they climb under a fence to fish on Pearl Harbor. In a dramatic and scary sequence they are present at (and injured by) the bombing of Pearl Harbor and Adam sees his father’s ship, the USS Arizona sink. In the confusion Adam is assumed to be in the Navy and helps rescuers. When he gets home everything is still confused and scary. He goes to find Davi and finds that Davi’s father has been taken away by the FBI. Despite knowing his own father was killed by the Japanese bombers Adam feels it is wrong to lock up Davi’s mild mannered father. When Adam’s father is officially declared missing in action Adam, his mother and sister leave Hawaii. An author’s note explains the historical background of World War II.

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Mazer, Harry. (2004). A Boy No More. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
ISBN: 0689855338

ISBN: 0439702240 (Scholastic Paperback)
A sequel to Harry Mazer’s A Boy at War. Adam has moved from Hawaii to California and everything has changed. They are short of money and Adam’s mother gets a job and then seems to start enjoying her new independence. Even Adam’s little sister is changing as she was thought to be too young to be told that her father is dead, but she reveals that she already knows (but still doesn’t fully understand). Adam becomes interested in a girl and also gets a job as there is a labor shortage due to World War II. Adam gets a letter from his Hawaiian Japanese friend, Davi, asking him to deliver a letter relatives who have been put in a detention camp in California. Adam’s mother thinks that helping Davi is disloyalty to his father who was killed by the Japanese but Adam knows that the war is not Davi’s fault. He defies his mother to find Davi’s relatives and accidentally finds Davi in a detention camp. His relationship becomes so cold, that Adam considers going to live with his grandfather in New York state, but decides his place is with his mother and sister. These two books capture the lack of easy answers in a war – Adam knew the Japanese were guilty of killing his father but also knew that Davi and his immediate family were innocent and treated unfairly.


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Mazer, Harry Heroes Don’t Run: A Novel of the Pacific War Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. 2005 ISBN: 0689855346

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Moses, Shelia (2008)  Joseph Margaret K. McElderry Books.

ISBN: 978-1416917526

Joseph’s father is deployed to Iraq and his mother, a drug addict, cannot cope. In fact Joseph, a boy mature beyond his years, ends up looking after her. A gritty, uncompromising look at the degradations of drug addiction and how the military family lifestyle can make life unbearably difficult for families already near the edge.


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


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Moses, Shelia (2011)  Joseph’s Grace Margaret K. McElderry Books.

ISBN: 978-1416939429










Novgorodoff, Danica  and Benjamin Percy (2009) Refresh, Refresh: A Graphic Novel First Second

ISBN: 978-1596435223

Josh’s father and Cody’s father are Marine Reservists who are deployed to Iraq. They live in a small, unnamed Oregon town where a lot of the men have gone to war. For many of the families the men’s absence is a financial as well as practical burden. Refresh Refresh does a good job of portraying the complex feelings military service creates in the families left behind. The artwork reflects the dark subject matter, with severe lines and somber, drab colors, mostly in army green and grey. Try Refresh Refresh for a stark and uncompromising look at military family life, especially for reservists. Refresh Refresh is a violent and often disturbing graphic novel suitable for adults and older teens.

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


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Parry, Rosanne (2011) Second Fiddle Random House Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-0375861963 (Hardcover)

ISBN: 978-0375861666 (Paperback 2012)

Jody and her two friends Giselle and Vivian live on an American Army base in Berlin in 1990, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. They are brought together by their love of music and they travel by train each week to music lessons in East Germany with Herr Muller. The book does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of military life.

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


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Operation Oleander

Patterson, Valerie O. (2013) Operation Oleander Clarion Books

ISBN-10: 0547244371

ISBN-13: 978-0547244372

Jess’s Dad is in Afghanistan and she lives with her mother and toddler sister at invented army base, Fort Spencer, in Florida. She and her friends Meriwether and Sam have set up an unofficial charity to raise money in Florida to donate supplies to a girls’ orphanage in Kabul, Afghanistan. A detail this book captures, that books set in earlier eras miss, is the immediacy of electronic communication. Jess says, “His email is there. I check the date and time of his note. As of this morning, Dad was still alive in Afghanistan.” It includes details about the expectations for extra responsibilities when a parent is away, such as Jess’s father teaching her specifically how to add gas to the lawn mower and turn off the water main before he goes away.

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


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The Mark of Merlin Cover
McCaffrey, Anne. (1971). The Mark of Merlin. Wildside Press.
IN PRINT (In many versions)
ISBN: 1-58-715493-5 (Paperback)
ISBN:  1-59-224013-5 (Hardcover)
James Carlysle Murdock is a girl despite her name. She is twenty in the book, which is a little old for this list, but Carla’s father has been in the Army for years and she has grown up on army posts. This book is also a romance and a murder mystery and I thought it is worthwhile to include a variety of genres. Carla’s father has been killed near the end of World War II and he has put her under the guardianship of someone she doesn’t know, Major Laird. She will soon be twenty-one and not in need of a guardian but she has been ill and she is sent to recuperate with Major Laird. When she turns up the Major is furious and wants to send her away, because he thought a boy would be coming, but she is stuck at his house in a blizzard. Major Laird reveals that her father was murdered by an American and the house starts to have sinister visitors despite the storm. In the satisfying conclusion the mystery is cleared up and the antagonism between the Major and Carla develops into something warmer.

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Petersen, P.J. and Ruckman, (2006). Ivy. Rob& Laurel Leaf.
ISBN-10: 0440238730 Paperback




Reynolds, Marilyn (2009).  Shut Up Morning Glory Press.

ISBN: 9781932538939

“In her need to support her two young boys, Maria Barajas, a single mother, joins the National Guard to supplement her meager income as a sales clerk. years later, in less peaceful times, she is sent to Iraq, leaving her boys behind in the care of her sister.” From Book Jacket

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Rottman, S.L. (2009) Out of the Blue Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta.

ISBN: 9781561454990

“Stu and his mother are heading to Minot, ND where she will assume command of the Air Force base.” From Book Jacket

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Smith, Cynthia Leitich Rain Is Not My Indian Name HarperCollins. 2001 ISBN: 0688173977


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War Boys Cover
Schaffner, M. A. (2002). War Boys. Welcome Rain Publishers.
ISBN: 1-56649-244-0 (Hardcover)
Fourteen year old Charles Baker arrives with his family at the U.S. Navy Station at Subic Bay in the Philippines during the Vietnam War. At first Charles is terrified of the jungle but his father insists that he joins the Boy Scouts and Charles starts to go on jungle walks and camps. Charles loves to read and makes friends with some of the nerdy boys. He slowly gains acceptance with some of the more popular boys due to his growing jungle skills and integrity, but that doesn’t seem to matter when the irresponsible actions of a Boy Scout leader end in tragedy. Most of the boys Charles know want to follow their fathers’ footsteps into the Navy and all of them assume that they will end up fighting in the Vietnam War in a few years. In the (probably accurate) speech of the teenage boys this book contains a lot of swear words.

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Stein, Tammar. (2008). High Dive. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

ISBN: 0375830243 (Hardcover)
New. Unread

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Purple Heart Cover 1  Purple Heart Cover 2  Purple Heart Cover 3
Talbert, Marc. (1992). The Purple Heart. Willa Perlman Books, An Imprint of Harper Collins.
ISBN: 0-06-020429-X (Hardcover – First Edition)
ISBN: 0-06-020428-1 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0-595-09771-5 (Paperback – 2000 Reprint)
ISBN: 0-380-71985-1 (Paperback)
Luke’s father returns wounded from Vietnam and nothing is as Luke anticipated. The glorified view of war that Luke had at the beginning of the book slowly changes as he realizes what war does to people. Luke’s father was a builder before he joined the army and the book mentions that Luke has the same best friend since first grade so his experience may not be typical of active duty military children. Nonetheless, this book is well written and raises some important issues about war and what it may be like to have a parent who is irrevocably changed by it.

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