Wars are not something to be idolized. Hollywood today has glamorized war, encouraging audiences to root for the heroes and long for the villains to be destroyed. And yet, wars, real true wars, are not like what movies depict and only soldiers, the real true heroes who fought, will ever fully understand that. Movies and history books give viewers and readers a mere glimpse as to what actually happens. In a war, perhaps one side is right and the other is wrong… Perhaps both sides strongly prove their point and one cannot tell who to believe… Perhaps both sides, in the end, were wrong about everything… In all actuality, wars destroy homes, lives, and normality. They can take away freedom, sanity, and even childhood. Author Craig DiLouie has done it again by taking readers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and capturing the true essence of a major political issue in his newest book Our War.
The current President of the United States has been impeached, but he refuses to leave office. The Land of the Free has turned to violence and war has waged across the States for nearly a year. Ten-year-old Hannah Miller finds herself in Indianapolis stripped of her childhood and living with nothing left of her life before the war. With nothing left, she has nothing to lose, so she joins a Free Women militia who takes her in and becomes her second family, teaching her how to survive… by becoming part of the fight. Little does she know that on the opposing side, her older brother Alex is fighting, as well. Both are young and fighting without truly knowing what they are fighting for, only following the orders their commanders give them. Yet for such young souls, they must make a very grown up decision: fight for their country… or fight for each other?
For readers who are familiar with his work and even for those who are reading his work for the first time, DiLouie does not disappoint when it comes to writing an enticingly unique and morbidly alluring story. He focuses on issues found within today’s society and gives readers the honest truth, no matter how exhilarating or heartbreaking that truth may be. For Our War, DiLouie focuses on a terrible war taking place within the United States, but rather than focusing in-depth on the politics and all the goings on during the war, he focuses on an aspect that is normally overlooked within stories: children.
What may remind readers of Ishmael Beah’s memoir A Long Way Gone, DiLouie gives readers an inside look as to what war does to children, especially if they are recruited into the fighting. While DiLouie, once again, does a superb job of juggling characters, the two main ones readers will follow are brother and sister, Hannah and Alex Miller. These two children are so unbelievably well-written, readers will be longing to know what each of them is doing. With the politics of the story kept pretty hush hush throughout the book, readers will have just as much knowledge of the war as the children do. They fight because they are told to fight. They are shown their targets and are told to fire. Once again, DiLouie shows off another wonderful aspect of his writing and that is showing both sides of the spectrum. When it comes to the children and the adults, readers will potentially believe the adults to be brainwashing the children to be fighting a war that is not theirs to fight, yet on the other hand, readers will see that the children fight because they have nothing left to fight for but their lives and the possibility of a future with any living family that may or may not exist.
Aside from the children, readers will also get to witness a more diverse spectrum of the war by following other adult characters such as a newspaper reporter, a UNICEF worker, and a commander of one of the militias. Each of these characters brings a new outlook to the war. The newspaper reporter just wants to report what she witnesses in the world and share the cold hard facts with the world, but is placed in front a mirror of truth that threatens to change her perspective and way of thinking. The UNICEF worker discovers children are being used as soldiers and wants nothing but to get them out of the country and out of the war, yet no one is willing to help her do it. The militia commander has young boys barely on the cusp of manhood fighting under his orders, yet won’t fight children himself. He slowly comes to realize why he began fighting in the war and must discover why he wishes to continue to fight.
Going along with the characters’ personalities are a couple of underlying messages readers can take away and use in life, even if they have never fought in a war before. One important message is to respect our proud country’s soldiers. They risk their lives to keep our country free, yet they do not always get the recognition they deserve. DiLouie bring up a very good point when talking about the militia commander who fought in Afghanistan and struggled so much with his PTSD that, when he returned home, he felt the only way to solve it was with alcohol. “It was a time of darkness and seething anger. Americans worshipped celebrities while real heroes died in faraway wars most people no longer cared about” (Loc 1993). Readers, Americans, anyone who is willing to listen, let us take a moment (as DiLouie has pointed out in his story) to thank the soldiers who have fought and continue to fight for this amazing country. They are the true heroes, not the glamorized ones seen in movies.
The other important message is finding what one should fight for. Everyone is placed on this earth to fight for something. Every person is different and, while the characters in Our War are literally fighting for something so that they may survive, everyone today is alive to fight for something, to fight for their reason to live, whether it is a literal, metaphorical, psychological, spiritual, or any other kind of battle. One woman in the Free Women militia speaks to Hannah on why she fights and it is a powerful message for any reader to take away for his or her own life: “I do what I hate for what I love… These women, this city. People I don’t even know. So they can live in a safe, just world. That’s the cause… That’s the cause for me. You have to decide for yourself what it means to you. Do you fight for others out of love, do you fight against the rebels out of hate or do you fight for yourself just to survive?… What you want most will make you the woman you will become” (Loc 1564).
Come August 20 of this year, readers will be able to experience Craig DiLouie’s newest book Our War, another well-executed story about a political problem that could more or less happen in the future. Once again, DiLouie entices people with a story that covers all sides of a difficult spectrum while also giving readers words of wisdom they can use in daily life. He effortlessly jumps between various characters without confusion and his main focus on children characters brings to life a reality many people overlook in a war. The politics leading up to the war are not focused on as much upon, giving more focus on the children and giving readers a better understanding of their point of view, making them wonder, “Why exactly ARE they fighting?” War is not to be glamorized for it is a true and terrifying event. Our War will remind readers what we as human beings take for granted every day and will remind us that we need to appreciate everything we have because, within a moment, it can all be taken away.