Review / War Stories

war-storiesBook: War Stories (2020)
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: MG, Contemporary/Historical (WWII)

Basic plot: Trevor loves hearing G.G.’s war stories from World War II. When G.G. gets the call to come to France to be honoured in the 75th anniversary celebrations, Trevor gets to tag along! But not all the French people are happy about G.G.’s visit, and little things begin to happen. A flat tire here, a rock through window there…

WHAT’S COOL…

1) So, I love WWII history books! I was excited about this one. I really liked how the chapters alternated from today’s world to G.G. (aka 17-year-old Jacob, nicknamed ‘High School’) during the Normandy invasion. I love that Trevor is such a history buff. (I know the book complains about him being too much into video games… well, see my note in ‘What’s Not Cool’ below.) I do think it’s so important for grandparents (and great-grandparents like G.G.) to tell their stories to kids. Including the hard stories. I do think it’s good to tell the hard stories.

2) I liked following them on their pilgrimage from the States over to the UK and finally to France. While they’re in London, Trevor wants to do the wartime tours (old Tube stations that were used as bomb shelters, etc.) Oh, it was like I was there. And then they drove through the French countryside as they headed to Sainte-Régine…

3) I did like the mysterious La Vérité. It added some tension to the world of 2020. I like that we do sometimes get to see their POV as well.

4) I loved the relationship between Jacob and his fellow G.I. Joes. I’m glad it was realistic enough that [*Slight SPOILER] some of the soldiers die during the various battles. [End Spoiler] But it was fun to see the camaraderie. The nicknames and the teasing. I love how the final chapter brings us back to that in full force.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) This is a slight thing, and I know that Gordon Korman wrote this WAY before Covid-19 was a thing, but… The dates drove me crazy!!! One chapter title is called “Crossing the English ChannelApril 28, 2020.” We were practically in lockdown at that time! We weren’t flying over to England and then casually crossing the channel on April 28th. Why aren’t these people worried about catching the coronavirus? G.G. is definitely in a risk-group! Arghhhh!!!! (Again, Korman probably would have written this back in 2018 or 2019. But I wish they hadn’t put 2020 as the date. Maybe they could have just put ‘Today’s World’ or something like that.)

2) I alluded to this above… Trevor parents seem to be completely worried about his gaming and his love of explosions and war. I actually didn’t see anything to be worried about. While I’m sure Trevor likes to play video games, he seems genuinely interested in history. He knows enough to ask his dad and great-grandfather to see the wartime sites in London. He’s interested in that! I think a real gamer doesn’t really care about stuff like that. Sure, his interests are in all-things WWII. Then, I guess I can be called “guilty as charged” too. And it’s not the idea of war that I love. What I love is the heroic sacrifices people made. Even when they make mistakes and try to correct them. I love the resilience. I love the stories that show that no matter how hard it gets, you can make it through. And even for those people who don’t make it, their stories are also worth telling. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I didn’t see an unhealthy obsession with war on Trevor’s part.

3) Okay, and my final gripe with this story. I liked La Vérité but… And here begins some spoilers because I cannot explain it otherwise. [SPOILERS!] So, the secret turns out to be that Jacob let a young Nazi live and shortly after that René, a leader in the Resistance, ends up losing all his family. When Jacob realizes this, René bitterly accuses him and tells him never to speak to him again. Or something in that vain. (Note: René’s family helped nurse and hide Jacob after he was injured.) But René always told Jacob that he knew his life was at risk, and by extension the life of his family. So, when his family/home is destroyed, why doesn’t he put the blame on the Nazis??? He knew this was a risk. It was really just a matter of time. Jacob didn’t actually betray René and his family. At least not on purpose. So, I’m not sure how this hatred trickled down through the years to the generations that followed to the point where 75 years later, they’re out to get Jacob. In short, I didn’t buy the whole reason for La Vérité and the “secret” that Jacob is “hiding.”   [End Spoilers]

FINAL THOUGHTS

I liked the book well enough, but I did not love love this book as much as I thought I would. War is complicated, and I think it’s good to talk about complications in war stories. But it’s also good to remember the bravery of the men and women who lived through these times. Would I still recommend this book? Yes!

Happy Remembrance Day on November 11th!


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

11 thoughts on “Review / War Stories

    • It was supposed to be for the 75th anniversary of the end of the war (1945), so it makes sense. When he wrote it, he obviously didn’t know about 2020! But I really wish he hadn’t used the year. Just identified those sections as “today” or “now”!

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  1. Hmmm. I sort of got what Korman was doing with the video games and war interests. I see that a lot in my young readers– they are a bit more interested in the violence, so I like books that point on the realities. I’m with you, in liking the stories of survival more than the fighting, but I think Korman read his target demographic well. I’m with you on La Verite, although it didn’t detract too much from the story for me. I am totally fine if Korman wants to write a couple of more war books, but maybe about Vietnam instead!

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  2. I have WAR STORIES high on my list to read. Thanks for your insights as there seems to be more and more books for the MG audience with a WWII theme. It’s a welcome direction and I too would like to see Vietnam War fiction written for the younger audience. Thanks for featuring your review on MMGM.

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  3. First I’ve heard of WAR STORIES. I enjoy reading everything I can about WWII and the heroic measures people took to help. I’m with Karen and Greg, I’d LOVE to see more books about the Vietnam War for teens. My brother served in Vietnam (father and uncle in WWII, and grandfather in WWI). I reviewed a PB about Vietnam, and a good friend who served in Vietnam, was not happy with me. Too much pain I guess.

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  4. Great timing for Veterans’ Day! I appreciate your second point under “What’s Not Cool.” In general, I think people automatically assume violent video games are concerning, and that isn’t always the case—I know people who play such games in a completely healthy way. I’ve been hearing about this book, but thanks for a new perspective on it!

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