Girl At War read like a memoir of Ana’s life in Croatia when war broke out in 1991. By telling the book as a flashback, the story captured Ana’s life as a naive child running the streets of Croatia with her friends, and then as a young woman attempting to live a normal life in New York. Her youthful narration in the first part of the book easily hooked me, and ended up to be my favorite part of the story.
The portion of Ana’s life where she was involved in the war was gritty and tragic. They really brought new meaning to the phrase “horrors of war”. I appreciated how the author used those events to make Ana a UN poster child for the horrors of war on children. The story developed in a way that allowed the reader to see the war’s impact on a variety of characters, and that allowed the novel to make broad statements as to the needless destruction felt by the city’s inhabitants. The middle of the story, where Ana returned home, lagged for me because there wasn’t a lot happening and I found the pacing of the book to be a little inconsistent. There she drove around, walked the streets, and talked with old friends. Those actions were subtle and slow and depressing. The relationships between the characters was emotional and demonstrated true love in a variety of forms. It was sad to witness how the war wounded Ana’s spirit in such a way that it impacted her ability to be a sister, be a friend, and be a girlfriend. Overall, I thought the story was executed in a way that made this a well rounded novel.
I liked the story, but for the topic, I would recommend the autobiography, A Long Way Gone, instead. As for Sara Novic, she is clearly a talented author and I look forward to reading more from her.