Young Women at War

Young Women at War

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

I'm going to take an Internet break for the next little while (both to get some writing done and enjoy summertime) but before I go into Internet blackout mode I wanted to talk a bit about two YA novels that I really enjoyed reading recently. One of them is about a young woman who lives in a fenced village that's surrounded by the walking undead in a time long after civilization has been ravaged by a zombie plague. In the other a road trip story about two teenage girls driving across America with their grandmother frames the telling of Mare's (the grandmother) own youthful experiences running away from home to join the army and ultimately, World War II.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanYou wouldn't guess, from looking at the jackets or reading my brief descriptions, that Mare's War (by Tanita S. Davis) and The Forest of Hands and Teeth (by Carrie Ryan) have much in common. Naturally there are vast differences, but there are also some interesting common elements starting with the fact that the main characters basically share the same name—Marey Lee (also known as Mare) in Mare's War and Mary in The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Both characters endure separations from their siblings and are orphans of a sort (although not all four parents are actually dead—one appears to be more of the indifferent variety and two others could be classified as undead). Mare and Mary both want different things for themselves than what their families and societies dictate, and forge paths their own mothers could scarcely have imagined travelling. Both rail, in their own ways, against the restraints of their societies—in Mare's War the biggest is racism, in The Forest of Hands and Teeth it's a strict social order upheld by the Sisterhood. However, Mare and Mary also battle against dangerous enemies of their societies—zombies known as the Unconsecrated (The Forest of Hands and Teeth) and the Axis powers (Mare's War).

Mare and Mary prove themselves as tough and resourceful as any male hero during the course of their stories. There's a well-known saying that goes, “Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it.” This is an adage that we see in action in The Forest of Hands and Teeth and Mare's War, not the building of Mare and Mary's courage, but its revelation.

I believe that while both novels would appeal strongly to a teen readership, older readers would find the novels equally engaging. These are two stories that make me wish books could be shelved in multiple areas of bookstores and libraries so they could score the breadth of readership they deserve. I highly recommend them both and can't help but think—while I'm drawing comparisons—about how Mare's military experiences and personal fortitude would undoubtedly help her battle the Unconsecrated of Mary's world, and about how Mare's boat journey across a vast ocean, while on her way to war, could well have been one of the stories about the sea Mary grew up hearing at her mother's knee.

While I'm on the subject of reading, here's a breakdown of what I'm looking forward to tackling next:

* After The Moment (by Garret Freymann-Weyr)
* The Purity Myth (Jessica Valenti)
* This Is What I Want to Tell You (Heather Duffy Stone)


A bunch of YAs from the U.K. and Ireland

* Nought & Crosses (Malorie Blackman)
* Ostrich Boys (Keith Gray)
* Every Summer (Claire Hennessy)
* Swimming Against The Tide (Helen Bailey)
* Finding Violet Park (Jenny Valentine)
* My Desperate Love Diary (Liz Rettig)

I think these should keep me busy for awhile! Back online later in August...
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