Book Review: The Always War, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

always_war_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

Imagine if you lived in world consumed by fear and destruction. What if the most powerful nation in the world fell into total chaos for 75 years and you lived in it day to day?  In the book The Always War, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, a bestselling author, America has been plunged into a civil war that has ravaged the nation for almost a century. America has become a prison, as people have given up hope on seeing the end to the war. The cities are filthy and disgusting as living standards have plummeted throughout our nation. As Tessa describes, the “marketplace was full of filth and rot and misery” (30). People are suffering as the enemy lurks around them.

Tessa, a young teenage girl lives in this cruel world. She and everyone she knows has lived in it all of their lives and it does not look like it will ever end. She often feels neglected and worthless as she is bullied by her friends and ignored by her parents. The author expertly crafts Tessa’s thoughts into the book which show how she views events. Because she is a civilian she gives a very detailed look into how the average person views a major war.

One important character that is often in her thoughts is Gideon. Gideon is a soldier who feels remorse for his actions in the war. This is shown when he rejects the Medal of Honor because he believes that killing innocent people in a bombing run was unnecessary and wrong. I really like the way the author shapes this character. I like how he is a soldier, yet he is not brutal or cruel. I think this is interesting as usually soldiers are ruthless and cruel in fiction. He has some leadership skills and because he is a soldier, he has some experience in the field and with electronics.

Tessa does fancy Gideon which is shown many times in the book. One example is when Tessa says “the handsome, heroic, amazing Gideon Thrall remembers me [Tessa]” (21). Tessa’s crush on Gideon really changes the story, as she makes some of her decisions because of this.

While Gideon may be a soldier who has leadership skills, Dek seems to be the leader of this group. Dek is a child who was selected for the military academy. As a result she is the leader of the main characters in their adventures because she has the most experience with not only warfare but also machinery. She feels she has the right to boss others around and often makes fun of Gideon for flying drones instead of planes, stating that he is flying a toy.

I think Dek is my favorite character. My first reason for this is because everyone knows someone who is bossy, which makes this character easy to relate to. My second reason is because she acts like she knows everything at a young age, which is very similar to how some younger people also act. These characteristics make Dek a character everyone can relate to.

Although Dek and Gideon are soldiers they seem to have negative views about the war as Gideon feels it is not right and Dek had the war do something to her parents.

Tessa, along with Gideon and Dek have two problems to face in this book. The first is that the civil war consumes their everyday life and makes it miserable for everyone. The second comes when Gideon decides go into enemy territory with a stolen plane from his military.  Surprising events occur and Gideon finds himself in a dangerous situation.

The value of leadership is strongly emphasized in this book. The author touches on the importance of experience for a leader. For example when the team needs fuel Dek knows how to siphon it and decontaminate it so they can use it. This is because Dek parents were mechanics and they encouraged Dek to have hands on experience with motors. Because Dek had experience as a mechanic, she could get fuel to improve the team’s situation. I can relate to this because I have had many situations that have been improved by my experiences with a topic.

The author focuses on if war is ethical or not in this book. Not only does she focus on if it is right, but also if it is worth fighting over anything. Both of these topics are a major part of war. For example governments have to decide if something, such as oil, is worth fighting for in comparison to the costs they have on the country. They also have to make sure that they are fighting a justified war.

Wars effect on people is demonstarted in this book. The author clearly shows that the town these characters live in is in shambles because of the war. Mrs.Haddix also shows war’s direct effect on people. The constant fighting has defiantly demoralized citizens in the town, as people have lost hope on winning the war.

Overall, I think The Always War is a great book. The book is very suspenseful and provides the reader with enough information so the reader can make accurate predictions without ruining the plot. The author also creates some very good themes about war. If you like suspense, action, or mysteries you will like this book. But be warned, in this war not all is what it seems.

-Clayton C., 7th grade

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