cover image The Always War

The Always War

Margaret Peterson Haddix. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (208p) ISBN 978-1-4169-9526-5

When 15-year-old Tessa attends a ceremony to honor her neighbor Gideon, a hero in a 70-year war that has worn down the society she lives in, she has no idea where his refusal of the award will lead them. Hope is a rare commodity in this future America, but Tessa finds just enough of it to follow Gideon onto a warplane he purchases on the black market. Along with another stowaway, they land in enemy territory, where Gideon hopes to make reparations for the lives he’s taken; they discover, however, that everything they know about the war is an illusion. It’s a smart premise, considering that the book’s U.S. audience has basically grown up in a nation at war, yet Haddix’s (Claim to Fame) story is more about uncovering the unreality of war than its truths. The novel has more than a few hints of The Wizard of Oz (one can almost feel the book switch from b&w to Technicolor), but its final revelations and the idea of this trio as its society’s salvation don’t feel believable, drawing focus away from the author’s message. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)