Memorial Day Reading: YA Novels Featuring Soldiers and War (Updated)

During Memorial Day weekend in 2012 I wrote this post about YA novels featuring soldiers and/or war. Since then I’ve read and discovered even more that I’d like to share with you. Just like last time, I’d love to know if there are more books I need to add to this list.

Some of the books will have summaries and some will have commentary.

World War II novels:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: This is always a popular novel in my classroom, even more so since the movie released. Being written from the point of view of death adds an intriguing layer to a beautiful, heart wrenching story.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow: Karl’s story is interesting because he’s a Jew hiding in plain sight until the Nazi presence grows stronger. He wants to grow strong and become a talented boxer since he’s bullied. I really enjoyed the cartoons he draws throughout the story.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: The tenth grade teachers encourage students to read this novel during the independent reading war unit. They don’t have to try very hard since it’s almost always a favorite. Students are often very surprised to learn about the Lithuanian ethnic cleansing that took place during WWII.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (Goodreads):

While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?
Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner (Goodreads):

With a white mother and a Japanese father, Koji Miyamoto quickly realizes that his home in San Francisco is no longer a welcoming one after Pearl Harbor is attacked. And once he’s sent to an internment camp, he learns that being half white at the camp is just as difficult as being half Japanese on the streets of an American city during WWII. Koji’s story, based on true events, is brought to life by Matt Faulkner’s cinematic illustrations that reveal Koji struggling to find his place in a tumultuous world-one where he is a prisoner of war in his own country.

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers (Goodreads):

Walter Dean Myers brilliantly renders the realities of World War II.

Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry are on their way to an uncertain future. Their whole lives are ahead of them, yet at the same time, death’s whisper is everywhere.

One white, one black, these young men have nothing in common and everything in common as they approach an experience that will change them forever.

It’s May 1944. World War II is ramping up, and so are these young recruits, ready and eager. In small towns and big cities all over the globe, people are filled with fear. When Josiah and Marcus come together in what will be the greatest test of their lives, they learn hard lessons about race, friendship, and what it really means to fight. Set on the front lines of the Normandy invasion, this novel, rendered with heart-in-the-throat precision, is a cinematic masterpiece. Here we see the bold terror of war, and also the nuanced havoc that affects a young person’s psyche while living in a barrack, not knowing if today he will end up dead or alive.

Non-Fiction War Novels:

BombBomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Goodreads):
In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned 3 continents. In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world’s most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.

ImprisonedImprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II by Martin W. Sandler (Goodreads):
While Americans fought for freedom and democracy abroad, fear and suspicion towards Japanese Americans swept the country after Japan’s sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Culling information from extensive, previously unpublished interviews and oral histories with Japanese American survivors of internment camps, Martin W. Sandler gives an in-depth account of their lives before, during their imprisonment, and after their release. Bringing readers inside life in the internment camps and explaining how a country that is built on the ideals of freedom for all could have such a dark mark on its history, this in-depth look at a troubling period of American history sheds light on the prejudices in today’s world and provides the historical context we need to prevent similar abuses of power.

TrinityTrinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm (Goodreads):
Trinity, the debut graphic book by the gifted illustrator Jonathan Fetter-Vorm, depicts in vivid detail the dramatic history of the race to build and the decision to drop the first atomic bomb. This sweeping historical narrative traces the spark of invention from the laboratories of nineteenth-century Europe to the massive industrial and scientific efforts of the Manhattan Project. Along the way, Fetter-Vorm takes special care to explain the fundamental science of nuclear reactions. With the clarity and accessibility that only a graphic book can provide, Trinity transports the reader into the core of a nuclear reaction—into the splitting atoms themselves.

The power of the atom was harnessed in a top-secret government compound in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where some of the greatest scientific minds in the world gathered together to work on the bomb. Fetter-Vorm showcases J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and General Leslie Groves, the fathers of the atomic bomb, whose insights unleashed the most devastating explosion known to humankind. These brilliant scientists wrestled daily with both the difficulty of building an atomic weapon and the moral implications of actually succeeding.

When the first bomb finally went off at a test site code-named Trinity, the world was irreversibly thrust into a new and terrifying age. With powerful renderings of the catastrophic events at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Fetter-Vorm unflinchingly chronicles the far-reaching political, environmental, and ethical effects of this new discovery. Richly illustrated and deeply researched, Trinity is a dramatic, informative, and thought-provoking book on one of the most significant and harrowing events in history.

The Nazi HuntersThe Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (Goodreads):
A thrilling spy mission, a moving Holocaust story, and a first-class work of narrative nonfiction.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Adolf Eichmann, the head of operations for the Nazis’ Final Solution, walked into the mountains of Germany and vanished from view. Sixteen years later, an elite team of spies captured him at a bus stop in Argentina and smuggled him to Israel, resulting in one of the century’s most important trials — one that cemented the Holocaust in the public imagination.

THE NAZI HUNTERS is the thrilling and fascinating story of what happened between these two events. Survivor Simon Wiesenthal opened Eichmann’s case; a blind Argentinean and his teenage daughter provided crucial information. Finally, the Israeli spies — many of whom lost family in the Holocaust — embarked on their daring mission, recounted here in full. Based on the adult bestseller HUNTING EICHMANN, which is now in development as a major film, and illustrated with powerful photos throughout, THE NAZI HUNTERS is a can’t-miss work of narrative nonfiction for middle-grade and YA readers.

 

The Effects of War at Home:

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson: I included this book on my previous list, but I hadn’t read it yet. I’ve read it since then and absolutely loved it. It’s not only a compelling story that deals with slut-shaming, but it also looks at life in a military-infused town.

Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie: Kokie’s debut looks at what life is like for a military family when a son/brother has died overseas. Matt is dealing with grief, a strict father who won’t discuss Matt’s brother’s death, and Matt’s need to understand his brother more. I thoroughly enjoyed this debut and so do my students.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson: Hayley’s father suffers from PTSD and consequently they move from place to place since he struggles to escape his past in Iraq. Sadly, Hayley is also basically suffering from her own form of PTSD stemming from her father’s outbursts and her troubled past. Laurie Halse Anderson fans waited a long time for a new YA novel and this was worth the wait.

Fat Angie by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo (Goodreads):

Her sister was captured in Iraq, she’s the resident laughingstock at school, and her therapist tells her to count instead of eat. Can a daring new girl in her life really change anything?

Angie is broken — by her can’t-be-bothered mother, by her high-school tormenters, and by being the only one who thinks her varsity-athlete-turned-war-hero sister is still alive. Hiding under a mountain of junk food hasn’t kept the pain (or the shouts of “crazy mad cow!”) away. Having failed to kill herself — in front of a gym full of kids — she’s back at high school just trying to make it through each day. That is, until the arrival of KC Romance, the kind of girl who doesn’t exist in Dryfalls, Ohio. A girl who is one hundred and ninety-nine percent wow! A girl who never sees her as Fat Angie, and who knows too well that the package doesn’t always match what’s inside. With an offbeat sensibility, mean girls to rival a horror classic, and characters both outrageous and touching, this darkly comic anti-romantic romance will appeal to anyone who likes entertaining and meaningful fiction.

It has been awarded the Stonewall Book Award-Mike Morgan and Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award for 2014.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios (Goodreads):

If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.

Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.

Audiobook Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Audio Review

The Book Thief audioTitle: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Narrator: Allan Corduner

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers/Listening Library

Release Date: March 14th, 2006/September 26th, 2006

Interest: Printz Honor / Movie

Source: Purchased book & audio (via Audible)

Summary (From Goodreads):

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that will be in movie theaters on November 15, 2013, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

Audio Review: I chose to listen to The Book Thief because I couldn’t get into the book reading it traditionally. Thankfully, Allan Corduner is an excellent narrator and really made Markus Zusak’s book come alive. His voice is easy to listen to and his accent fits the story perfectly. His voices fit the different characters well, which added to my enjoyment of the audio. If you’re like me and are either hesitant to read The Book Thief traditionally, or you’ve tried reading it and couldn’t get into it, I suggest giving the audio a try.

Book Review: I enjoyed The Book Thief, but I didn’t love it to pieces like so many others. I appreciate the story, and I love that Death is the narrator, but something is missing for me. I guess I sort of felt like, “So what?” when I finished listening. Thinking that and writing that makes me feel like a horrible person. I understand that “books feed the soul” but I think I needed something more than that from the story.

Maybe I need to admit to myself that World War II/Holocaust stories don’t work for me anymore. I’m a history minor and understand the importance of the time period. I have a tough time finishing these novels because I know how all of them end–tragically. Yes, that’s a generalization, and yes, The Book Thief ends with a sense of hope. But from this story in particular, which I did finish, I needed something more.

I will say, however, that the writing it beautiful and the character development is wonderful. I can easily see why it received the Printz Honor. Hopefully the movie will affect me more than the book did.

Memorial Day Reading: Y.A. Novels Featuring Soldiers and War

Memorial Day is a day to be thankful for the soldiers, past and present, who have served to keep us safe.  I also know that many of us have today off, so I decided to feature some Y.A. novels that feature soldiers and/or war.  I have a mix of books I’ve read and want to read, books that have been around for some time, and also some that are releasing in the near future.  If you can add any titles to my list, I’d love it if you leave me those titles in the comments!  My male readers in particular love war novels, so I’m always looking for suggestions to add to my class library.

Novels I’ve Read:

Refresh, Refresh: A Graphic Novel by Benjamin Percy, James Ponsoldt, Danica Novgorodoff (illustrator) (Goodreads): I decided to start with a graphic novel since we just discussed them during last night’s #titletalk.  This is probably the most popular graphic novel in my classroom right now.  It’s about a group of boys whose fathers are all serving in Iraq.  They don’t have role models readily available, so they’re trying to figure out life and how to grow into adulthood on their own.  We see them constantly refreshing their email just in case they receive a new email from their father.

Heroes by Robert Cormier (Goodreads): This is historical fiction based during WWII.  Francis has returned from the war, but he no longer has a face after he fell on a grenade.  Heroes deals more with Francis trying to move on after the war, the mental effects of being severely disfigured, and Francis plotting to kill his childhood war hero.   Just like most of Robert Cormier’s books, he mixes character motivation and psychology into a blend that manipulates the reader because while we know killing someone is wrong, you can’t help but feel for Francis.

Soldier’s Heart by Gary Paulsen (Goodreads): Soldier’s Heart is a historical fiction novel set during the Civil War that works for both middle grade and Y.A. readers.  It’s about a boy who enlists at the age of 15 because he doesn’t want to miss out on this experience.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read this, but I remember plenty of battle scenes as Charley tries to survive the war.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick (Goodreads): Patricia McCormick is one of my favorite authors because she takes so much time researching her topic, which is obvious in Purple Heart.  I like this novel because we watch Private Matt Duffy trying to recover from a war wound and also trying to regain his memory.  He receives the Purple Heart, but he doesn’t remember exactly what he did to receive it and something’s nagging at him to make him feel like he doesn’t deserve it.  We get a glimpse of how soldiers recover and are sometimes rushed back to the field to continue serving.  Purple Heart is a very real book that allows readers to see a different side of the war than what’s portrayed in the media.

While He Was Away by Karen Schrek (Goodreads): I’m including While He Was Away because even though we aren’t following a soldier, we’re following Penna’s life after her boyfriend, David, leaves to serve in the military.  I think this would be a good read for those who have a significant other serving and either want someone to relate to or maybe they want to know what to expect.  Penna’s story is a little different because she really only had David while they were dating, but now that he’s in Iraq, she has to branch out and start making friends and moving on with her life while she waits for him to return.  We do, however, get glimpses of what David’s going through via Skype chats, emails, and phone calls.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller (Goodreads) (My Review): I’ve read 40+ books so far in 2012, and Something Like Normal is still in my top three favorites.  It’s told from a guy’s point of view, it’s current, and it’s authentic.  Travis is home on leave from Afghanistan and not only is he dealing with troubles at home, he’s desperately trying to cope with PTSD after seeing his best friend die.  We’re not watching him fight the war, but we’re there for his nightmarish flashbacks.  We’re watching him fight himself.  This releases on June 19th, and I REALLY hope you buy it.  I plan on buying multiple copies for my classroom.

Novels I Want to Read:
I’m including the summaries since I haven’t read these books yet, but I will say that I’m pumped about If I Lie!

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Goodreads): Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers (Goodreads): An exciting, eye-catching repackage of acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers’ bestselling paperbacks, to coincide with the publication of SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH in hardcover.

A coming-of-age tale for young adults set in the trenches of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, this is the story of Perry, a Harlem teenager who volunteers for the service when his dream of attending college falls through. Sent to the front lines, Perry and his platoon come face-to-face with the Vietcong and the real horror of warfare. But violence and death aren’t the only hardships. As Perry struggles to find virtue in himself and his comrades, he questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments, and why the U.S. is there at all.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers (Goodreads): A powerful new novel about the heroics and horror of war from Walter Dean Myers, whose bestselling book FALLEN ANGELS celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Operation Iraqi Freedom, that’s the code name. But the young men and women in the military’s Civil Affairs Battalion have a simpler name for it: WAR.

In this new novel, Walter Dean Myers looks at a contemporary war with the same power and searing insight he brought to the Vietnam war of his classic, FALLEN ANGELS. He creates memorable characters like the book’s narrator, Birdy, a young recruit from Harlem who’s questioning why he even enlisted; Marla, a blond, tough-talking, wisecracking gunner; Jonesy, a guitar-playing bluesman who just wants to make it back to Georgia and open a club.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (Releases August 28th, 2012) (Goodreads): A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

 

Book Trailer Thursday (64)–Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Recently I’ve seen some tweets and received an email or two about an upcoming release called Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (May 15th).  Pretty much everything I’ve seen on Twitter and Goodreads has been positive, so I decided to look into it.  Based on the early reviews and the summary, I decided to check it out and requested a copy via NetGalley which was recently approved.  I haven’t started reading Code Name Verity yet, but I’m looking forward to it because I know historical fiction is popular with a group of my students, the boys in particular.

I have mixed feelings about this trailer because it doesn’t make the premise of the book obvious in regards to text.  I like the music and the warning siren and everything else though because it gives potential readers a good idea of the tone of the book despite needing to pay closer attention to the text as it’s displayed.  I’d love to know your thoughts about the trailer and the book if you’ve read it 🙂

**Note–This is the trailer created by Edgmont for the UK release which was in February of this year.**

Summary (From Goodreads): Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: