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I still remember the day the hubster came home from Iraq.
It’s sort of hard to forget.But it’s one of those days I don’t want to forget–and the reasons behind it are so many to be thankful for and remember.

I know we often spend the 4th BBQ-ing, watching parades, and finishing the night with lots of pomp and circumstance. After all, John Adams requested we spend the birth of America doing that very thing. (Pop and circumstance & fireworks…not BBQ’s.) But like most military holidays, sometimes I think the real reasons behind the holiday are forgotten or put on the back burner.

So I just want to say THANK YOU. Thank you to our military members past, present, future, and no longer with us who fight or have fought daily for our freedoms. You are the reason America is worth celebrating.

I’m going to celebrate in one way that I know how–by recommending some military themed reads so that the next generation doesn’t forget!
(All summaries form Goodreads.)
WTC

These stories are not only war stories, but they might feed your contemporary soul. A few of them have that soldier romance, while one is perfect for the MG army kid.

While He Was Away by Karen Schreck
One year–he’ll be gone for one year and then we’ll be together again and everything will be back to the way it should be.
The day David left, I felt like my heart was breaking. Sure, any long-distance relationship is tough, but David was going to war–to fight, to protect, to put his life in danger. We can get through this, though. We’ll talk, we’ll email, we won’t let anything come between us.
I can be an army girlfriend for one year. But will my sweet, soulful, funny David be the same person when he comes home? Will I? And what if he doesn’t come home at all?…
A story dealing with deployment.

If I Lie
by Corrine Jackson
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.
A little mystery, but a little bit into the secret world of military we all aren’t privy too.

Something Like Normal by Trish Dollar
When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero
This novel tackles PTSD, and it’s effect on soldiers.

Back Home by Julia Keller
Rachel “Brownie” Browning is thirteen when her father comes back from the war in Iraq. Of course she understands that he has been injured and that he will be a little different, at least for a while. But Brownie doesn’t even know the man with a prosthetic arm and leg who sits in the living room day after day. He’s certainly not the father who helped her build a fort in her backyard, or played basketball with her sister, or hauled her little brother around like a sack of potatoes.Brownie’s mother says that because of his traumatic brain injury, their father needs their affection and patience. In time, he’ll be better–Dad will be back. But Dad doesn’t seem to be making much progress, or much effort. He doesn’t smile. He doesn’t talk. He won’t even get out of his wheelchair, even though the doctors have taught him how and say that walking is essential to his recovery. And Brownie begins to wonder, will her family ever be able to return to the way life was before the war?
A MG story that opens up about the wounds of war, and how families are affected.

HOWThese next few novels deal with more of the hardship of war: death, grief, trauma, and invisible wounds. Probably not for the faint of heart, but highly recommended to understand what some of our military members and families, go through.

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams
Cam O’Mara, grandson and younger brother of bull- riding champions, is not interested in partaking in the family sport. Cam is a skateboarder, and perfecting his tricks — frontside flips, 360s — means everything until his older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq, paralyzed from a brain injury.
What would make a skateboarder take a different kind of ride? And what would get him on a monstrosity of a bull named Ugly? If Cam can stay on for the requisite eight seconds, will the $15,000 prize bring hope and a future for his big brother?
TBI is an injury that many soldiers come home with. Whether minor or a major injury, it exists in more soldiers than we realize.

Personal Effects by E.M Koke
Ever since his brother, T.J., was killed in Iraq, Matt feels like he’s been sleepwalking through life — failing classes, getting into fights, and avoiding his dad’s lectures about following in his brother’s footsteps. T.J.’s gone, but Matt can’t shake the feeling that if only he could get his hands on his brother’s stuff from Iraq, he’d be able to make sense of his death. But as Matt searches for answers about T.J.’s death, he faces a shocking revelation about T.J.’s life that suggests he may not have known T.J. as well as he thought. What he learns challenges him to stand up to his father, honor his brother’s memory, and take charge of his own life.
A story dealing with loss.

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
Finally, Levi Katznelson’s older brother, Boaz, has returned. Boaz was a high school star who had it all and gave it up to serve in a war Levi can’t understand. Things have been on hold since Boaz left. With the help of his two best friends Levi has fumbled his way through high school, weary of his role as little brother to the hero.
But when Boaz walks through the front door after his tour of duty is over, Levi knows there’s something wrong. Boaz is home, safe. But Levi knows that his brother is not the same.
Maybe things will never return to normal. Then Boaz leaves again, and this time Levi follows him, determined to understand who his brother was, who he has become, and how to bring him home again.
So many soldiers come home with PTSD, but are not always diagnosed. This novel tackles how soldiers are forever changed.

Badd by Tim Tharp
Ceejay has never been pretty or popular, but she knows who she is: she’s younger sister to Bobby, the most charming bad boy in town. Bobby’s a bit wild, but with his big heart and sense of fun, everybody loves him. And nobody understands Ceejay like Bobby.
Now, Ceejay can’t wait for Bobby to return home from his tour in Iraq. But then he turns up unannounced and seems to be avoiding his family. And he’s so different. His wild streak has become reckless. His sense of fun has become desperate. And seeing this, Ceejay’s own tough shell begins to crack. How can she believe in being strong when her hero is broken?
As she tries to get Bobby back, Ceejay begins to reexamine her family, her community, and everyone in her life. What she finds is that true strength is not quite what she thought it was.
A book about how PTSD can change a soldier and his family.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby
Honor receives her brother’s last letter from Iraq three days after learning that he died, and opens it the day his fellow Marines lay the flag over his casket. Its contents are a complete shock: concert tickets to see Kyra Kelly, her favorite pop star and Finn’s celebrity crush. In his letter, he jokingly charged Honor with the task of telling Kyra Kelly that he was in love with her.
Grief-stricken and determined to grant Finn’s last request, she rushes to leave immediately. But she only gets as far as the driveway before running into Rusty, Finn’s best friend since third grade and his polar opposite. She hasn’t seen him in ages, thanks to a falling out between the two guys, but Rusty is much the same as Honor remembers him: arrogant, stubborn . . . and ruggedly good-looking. Neither one is what the other would ever look for in a road trip partner, but the two of them set off together, on a voyage that makes sense only because it doesn’t. Along the way, they find small and sometimes surprising ways to ease their shared loss and honor Finn–but when shocking truths are revealed at the end of the road, will either of them be able to cope with the consequences?
A story dealing with grief and honor.

SS

These last three recommendations are from the perspective of a soldier. One is a true story while the others open the reader up to the actions and emotions of war.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick
When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he’s honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn’t feel like a hero.
There’s a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can’t shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can’t quite put all the pieces together.
Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad—Justin, Wolf, and Charlene—the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.
A look at the complications of human emotions and war.

Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson
Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was seventeen. Two years later, he was deployed to Iraq as an Army engineer. In this extraordinary and harrowing memoir, readers march along one GI’s tour of duty. It will change the way you feel about what it means to be an American.
A true account of a young soldier’s duty.

Sunrise over Fallujah by Walter Dean Meyers
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.
The deeper look at contemporary war, and the soldiers who fight.
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Again, I just want to say THANK YOU to all of those who fight for our freedoms! America is what it is because of you!

If you’d like some more war-themed YA stories, head over to YA librarian Tales for The Military Trend, Stacked for This War’s a Hard Road to Travel, and YA Love for Memorial Day reads.

Have a safe and happy 4th everyone!
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