Books to Read in Honor of Veteran’s Day
Today we honor America’s veterans for their service to our country. November 11 was chosen as the date for this special observation because the armistice that ended World War I went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. That war was considered “the war to end all wars” and the armistice was vastly important to the people of Europe and the United States. Until the mid 1950s, November 11 was called “Armistice Day.” After World War II and the Korean war, the observation was legally changed to “Veteran’s Day.” If you wish to learn more about the history of Veteran’s Day, the US Department of Veterans Affairs has a great website. Between World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Iraq wars, and with the war in Afghanistan entering its thirteenth year, many people have family and friends who are veterans. YA literature has many good novels about the experience of war; these seven titles are just a starting point.
- Invasion by Walter Dean Myers
Invasion tells of the events of D-Day and the weeks immediately following, from the perspective of young infantry soldiers.The men are only vaguely aware of what will be happening when they land on Omaha Beach. The landing, as history knows, is horrendous; thousands died. Myers eloquently conveys how exhausting war is physically and emotionally. He employs a subtle bit of reader manipulation: while the book is written in the past tense, the D-Day landing chapter is in present tense, adding to its tension. With the constant forward momentum of the soldiers, and the continuous battles they fight, this novel can be hard to read, but it is also hard to put down.
The story of two young British women during World War II. Verity is a spy, captured by the Germans in Nazi-occupied France. She reluctantly gives the Nazis a confession, and in the process, tells of her friendship with Maddie, the pilot of the spy plane that crashed, causing Verity to be captured. To say this book is tense is understating things by a power of one thousand. A twisty, tricksy plot, true friendship, the horrors of war, and tales of bravery will keep readers glued to the page.
- Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
This is a companion novel to Code Name Verity that also features young, female pilots during wartime. Rose Justice is an American in the British Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. She is shot down, captured by the Germans, and sent to the women’s concentration camp Ranvensbrück. Rose tells of her time there, holding nothing back. The Nazis committed horrific atrocities at Ravensbrück, but despite that, Rose finds friends and because of them, she also finds a way to survive. While the ending is never in doubt, (at the beginning of the book, Rose is in the safety of a hotel room), Wein’s storytelling still makes for an edge-of-your-seat reading experience.
- For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Teenage Suzanne lives in France during World War II and the war seems far away…until the Germans bomb her small town, killing her neighbor, and then Nazi soldiers throw her family out of their house. Despite this, Suzanne’s family tries to keep life as normal as possible for her. She is still training to be an opera singer. This means Suzanne travels all over for lessons and costume fittings and performances, all without attracting German attention. Her youth and freedom to travel make her perfect to be a courier for the French Resistance. The rebels recruit her and Suzanne is proud to spy for her country. But it is not without danger, as even young teenage rebels can be caught by the Nazis. This book is a fascinating look at the spying aspect of war, and it is made all the more astonishing when you realize that it is based on a true story.
- Chris Lynch’s Vietnam quartet (I Pledge Allegiance, Sharpshooter, Fire-Free Zone, Casualties of War)
Four friends pledge to stick together for life, even during war. When Rudi is drafted into the Vietnam war, his three best friends sign up as well, each one joining a different branch of the military. Rudi, who was not good at much of anything, turns out to be a very good Marine. Beck’s parents want him to go to college, but instead, he joins the Air Force. Ivan joins the Army, thinking his war experience will be similar to his father’s from World War II. And Morris joins the Navy, trying to keep all his friends safe from his vantage on a missile ship. These books allows Lynch to explore various aspects of the military, of the Vietnam conflict, of parental expectations, and of male friendship.
- Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Travis comes home on leave from Afghanistan for his friend’s funeral. He finds that his brother has stolen both his car and his girlfriend, and that his parents are splitting up because of his father’s infidelity. He has, among other mental health issues, PTSD and is not sure if he can make it to his friend’s funeral. Travis reconnects with a girl with whom he has history, and it is only with her help that he can approach normal again. Doller writes the male voice perfectly, and Travis’ pain, confusion, and longing for normalcy come through in every sentence. While things are not tied up in a neat bow by the end, there is a spark of hope which will help you past the lump in your throat.
- Torn by David Massey
Torn follows Ellie, a 19-year-old British medic on her first few days in Afghanistan. Her squad is attached to a small troop of American SEALs who are on a special mission to find a hidden cache of arms, and learn about a children’s army that is fighting both the Western Coalition and the Taliban. This book covers a lot of ground in a short amount of time which is probably very realistic of how soldiers feel in Afghanistan. Readers are dropped into the war alongside Ellie, and as she learns to find her feet, we do as well. Massey’s writing is clear and down to earth. He conveys the horror of war, but never using gratuitous violence.
~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Grave Mercy by R. L. LaFevers