MWD: Hell Is Coming Home

Brian David Johnson and Jan Egleson, illus. by Laila Milevski and Karl Stevens. Candlewick, $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5706-2
Returning to her New Hampshire town after serving in Iraq, Liz Mastrangelo is celebrated as a hero, but she feels more like a ghost. She’s unable to reconnect with the people in her life, burning bridges left and right, and instead finds companionship with a mutt, Brutus, who reminds her of Ender, a military working dog that saved her life by sacrificing his. Brutus and Liz have plenty in common—both are essentially homeless and tend to explode at those around them. In their first book for teens, Johnson and Egleson craft a powerful, unflinching narrative that tackles a variety of issues connected to the impact of war, including PTSD, sexual coercion, finding new meaning in one’s life, and the well-meaning but unhelpful efforts of those who remained behind. The often minimalist backgrounds and careful, naturalistic detailing in Milevski and Stevens’s graphite drawings imbue the story with a sense of absence that aligns perfectly with Liz’s estrangement. Tense pacing and the speed of Liz’s unraveling will hold readers’ focus in a sharp-edged portrait of a soldier’s struggle to re-acclimate to the civilian world. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 11/21/2016
Release date: 02/14/2017
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