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Memorial Day Reads

Today is Memorial Day.  Today is a day to honor the men and women who have served and died in the U.S. Military. I come from a military family, the Air Force. Every three years we moved to a new military base. Twice members of my family were stationed overseas. My brother was born on an Air Force base in Japan. Thankfully, no member of my immediate family ever served in a war. But I do have a couple of friend’s whose husbands served in our recent wars. Those men, they came back haunted. Some of them are missing body parts. But they all seem to be missing a piece of them, they all seem so different. I have seen those marriages end as these men (and in this case, they were men) tried to re-adjust back to life as a civilian. Some of them were depressed. Some of them were angry. But they all seemed haunted in one way or another. We don’t do enough to honor our commitments to those who serve, especially in regards to their mental health. So when you pick up a book to read today, read one of these YA titles and get a look into life for the people who have served and the people that love them.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hayley’s dad is so haunted by memories of Iraq that he can’t find a place to stay, a place where he feels safe. This means a lot of moving around for Hayley. But then the return to her dad’s hometown, a place that may help him heal – or make everything worse.

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

Quin has kissed a guy who isn’t her boyfriend, the local hero Carey. Carey is serving in Afghanistan. Now everyone is telling secrets about Quinn, shunning her for her betrayal, but they don’t know the truth. Secrets, shame, and small towns take center stage.


In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Honor receives her brother’s last letter 3 days after she learns he has died in Iraq.  He sends her on a quest to tell his favorite singer, Kyra Kelly, that he was in love with her.  A touching road trip through grief.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Travis returns from Afghanistan to to find that his parents have split up, his brother has stolen his girlfriend and his car, and life just isn’t the same. In fact, Travis isn’t the same after losing his best friend and suffering from PTSD. This is Travis journey to creating a life that might be something like normal.

Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Private Matt Duffy wakes up in a military hospital and is awarded the Purple Heart.  But the memory of a young boy’s death haunts him.  He worries that he is somehow responsible.

Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie

Matt’s older brother is killed in Iraq. When he gets his brothers personal effects, he makes a shocking discovery that rocks his world and makes him question everything he thought he knew.

Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers

Even if you give it a fancy name, a patriotic name – say Operation Iraqi Freedom – to the soldiers fighting on the front lines it’s all still the same. No matter what you call it, it’s still a war. And for those soldiers fighting that war, even your war with a fancy inspirational name, it’s still gunshots and fear and sometimes even death. These men and women on the front lines, like the young man named Birdy from Harlem, sometimes after they get there and see what war is really like, sometimes they’re not sure they really want to be there. Because as they say, war is hell, no matter what kind of a name you give it.

The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

Levi’s brother Boaz has returned home from the war, but things are not okay. Boaz is different. These are the things a brother just knows. So when Boaz leaves again, Levi follows him. Together they learn things that only a brother knows.


All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

Matt Pin was airlifted out of Vietnam during the war.  He now lives in the US with an adoptive family.  But he is haunted by secrets.  A powerful, moving debut from 2009.


If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

There are 2 things I really loved this book: 1) It has a very spot on depiction of poverty and the emotions and barriers that a child living in poverty face and 2) it has a very accurate depiction of what military life is like for the child. I particularly related to the getting orders and having to move quickly feelings expressed. This is also a really compelling story about friendship, discrimination, and the life of a boy growing up on a Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975.

And One to be on the Lookout For . . . 

Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian

This book is not out until later this year, but make a note. Sean Norwhalt is navigating his senior year of high school. His family is falling apart, he’s been dumped, and he knows that there aren’t a lot of good options out there for him. His only hope seems to be the Marine Corps, which no one believes he will really join. Well, that, and this thing happening with Neecie Albertson, whatever this thing may be. Mesrobian is the Morris finalist for her debut novel Sex & Violence, which won a ton of accolades and appeared on a lot of best of 2013 lists. PGWB captures the voice of a lost young man perfectly. It also provides some very detailed insight into the journey into military life. I have a lot of teens that come in asking for books about the military and I thought this captures the emotional and technical journey into military life quite well. This book resonates emotionally.

What are your favorite titles about soldiers and the military?  Share with us in the comments. You can find some additional lists here, here and here.

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