When starting this book, I didn’t expect the experience I had from reading it. Girl at War is a beautifully written, intense, and captivating début novel. If I hadn’t known this was Nović’s début, I’d have assumed there was a backlist to check out. There isn’t, yet, though. This author is just that talented from the start.
The first person narrative was key to drawing the reader into the experiences of being a child during a war. Ana is trying to have a childhood in a city that’s being bombed from the air. Her family has just enough rationed food to not waste away. And there’s always a lingering knowledge that a loved one might not walk through the door at the end of the day. Along with all of this, Rahela, Ana’s baby sister’s health is a major concern tearing at the family. This is troublesome for any person to live through, but for a ten-year-old, it’s a very impressionable time. Nović portrayal of this child in a war-torn setting had me closing the book every now and then just to absorb it all, knowing that this was the childhood of many kids only a few decades ago, and in places around the world today.
I also thought that after the initial set-up of Ana’s childhood, jumping to her in her twenties in New York City. Ana’s juggling college, a relationship, and memories of her past effecting her more and more each day. With this and flashback scenes, the reader gets the full scope of Ana’s life journey and her journey to heal, to look for answers, to not forget.
This book, its setting, its characters, and the gorgeous writing, it will stay with me for a long time. It has been a long time since a book has had an effect on me like Girl at War has. It may have ruined me for whatever book I read next. And I’m ok with that.