Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Always War

The Always War

Margaret Peterson Haddix
For ages 12 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2011   ISBN: 978-1416995265

For longer than her parent’s lifetime Tessa’s country has been at war. With all the resources of the country being expended on the war effort, the people are suffering and despair is the norm. For this reason, when a real bone fide war hero visits Tessa’s school she is thrilled. For Tessa Gideon Thrall represents hope and so much more. Perhaps her feelings are particularly strong because Gideon was once her neighbor. He used to live in the same miserable apartment building that she calls home.

When Gideon refuses to accept a medal for bravery in front of the whole school and tells everyone that he “wasn’t brave. I was a coward,” Tessa is shocked. She is even more shocked when she hears Gideon tapping on the wall of his apartment some days later. She recognizes the taps to be the Morse code distress signal. The biggest hero in her war torn country is begging her, of all people, for help.

Tessa figures out how to get past Gideon’s mother to see him, and at his request she brings him her old laptop computer. Gideon shows her a video and she sees for herself what he did to earn his medal for bravery. He bombed an enemy settlement and killed one thousand six hundred and thirty-two civilians. The burden of his guilt and remorse is tearing him apart.

When she sees Gideon sneaking out of his apartment one night, Tessa follows him and sees him talking to a man in a shadowy alley. When she hears someone coming, she hides in some kind of a vehicle. The next thing she knows Gideon has entered the vehicle and it is lifting off the ground.

Gideon flies the plane across the border and into the territory of the enemy, and he goes to the very place that he bombed those months ago when his air strike killed thousands of people. He wants to apologize for what he did, to show the people living in the settlement that he is truly contrite for the havoc he created. Before he can step off the plan Tessa stops him.

Then a very strange series of events take place. First of all they find out that bombers from their own country are heading their way and just when they think they are all going to die nothing happens. The bombs show up on the plane’s computer screen and yet no bombs are falling on them and they are “still alive.”

Then a stowaway shows herself and they find out that the person who sold the plane to Gideon was planning on stealing it back.

With Dek the stowaway piloting the plane, they head for home only to run out of fuel before they get there. They crash land near Shargo, the enemy’s military headquarters but when they open the door of the plane they don’t see a city or a military air base. The see fields and forests and a few ruins. It is all so confusing. Not that long ago Gideon saw satellite images of this same place and it was a thriving settlement and yet here they are and nothing is as it should be. How can this be? What is going on? Where is the enemy?

This powerful novel explores how three young people cope when they discover that they have been betrayed by the one organization that they thought they could trust. They have suffered, and their parents have suffered, and now they are not sure what to do.