Perfect reading (and eating) on holiday
I am a huge fan of quality Young Adult fiction, both for work and for personal reading. I like to sink my teeth into a big meaty saga with the rest of them but sometimes (especially when I am absolutely knackered) I’m in the mood for a slightly easier read. Even more so, I’m excited to read Young Adult fiction that I can recommend to students that will broaden their world view and I think that Girl at War manages to do that. The Yugoslavian civil war is astonishingly over twenty years ago and many people of my age or younger probably fail to understand how the events back then have drastically shaped the present day reality of many Croats, Bosnians and Serbs.
The story follows the experience of Ana Juric, both in Croatia (1991) and the United States (2001) and shows how deeply history can shape an individual. Ana’s matter-of-fact recollections of terrible situations can be somewhat chilling and unsettling at times but provides a narrative voice that seems believable for both child-Ana and young-woman-Ana. While the story is fictional, Ana’s story was real for many Slavic youths and I think that Novic has been respectful to their experiences.
Novic’s debut novel opened my eyes to many things that I was too young to be aware of at the time and struck home given that Ana and I would have been similar ages at the times that the stories are set. The only thing I was mildy disgruntled about was that some of the plot ends were not tied off neatly – but then that neat closure doesn’t always happen in life either. I’d recommend this to anyone as a gateway into the topics of the Yugoslavian war or child soldiers, a great “taster” novel if you will. I know I’ll also be recommending this novel to my students who like a tale with a strong female protagonist – Ana’s will to survive really is an inspiration.
*PR edition for review but all opinions are my own.