Nonfiction about the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq abound. Two books stand out for teen readers, both from the soldiers’ point of view.
Last year’s Alex Award-winning The Good Soldiers by David Finkel (FSG, 2009), follows the troops of Battalion 2-16 and their part in the war in Iraq, specifically the surge of 2007.
In War, Sebastian Junger recounts his experiences embedded with a platoon of the 173rd Airborne brigade in Afghanistan. Junger also co-produced a documentary film based on the same material, Restrepo, in theaters last summer and scheduled for DVD release on December 7th.
I think the review says it all, so I will leave you with it.
Adult/High School–War is not just hell–it is insanity. Junger, embedded for a year with U.S. troops fighting insurgents in the mountains above the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan, reports with even-handed clarity and insight on the excruciating intensity and unpredictable madness of combat and its impact on those on the front lines. The ensemble of soldiers he observes fighting, surviving and sometimes dying is as recognizable as any of the teens banging down our high school hallways because that is where they were only months before enlisting. Drawn together now on a mission that is nearly impossible in an alien environment, they find purpose and focus not in the politics of the fight, but in the commitment to protect their buddies at all cost, even if it means sacrificing one’s own life. By citing research on the psychology, physiology, and sociology of combat soldiers, Junger provides a context for the story of these troops and their behaviors, from self-sacrifice to channeling rage, grief, and fear through the trigger of a weapon firing 900 rounds per minute. The reality of war is depicted without glorification or judgment. Because this book is an exceptional account of an experience that directly or indirectly impacts the lives of contemporary teens in America, it should be in all libraries.–John Sexton, Westchester Library System, NY