Lovely War

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Lovely War Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Poignant World War I romance weaves in jazz, Greek gods.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 11 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Impact of World War I on society as a whole and on individuals. Some information may spark curiosity about Houston riot of 1917, invasion and massacre at Dinant in Belgium, experiences of African American soldiers during that war. Vivid depictions of life in trenches, some information about sniper training. Story framework retells Greek myth about Aphrodite's adulterous affair with Ares; those two gods as well as Hephaestus, Hades, and Apollo tell the main story. Lots of information about life and influence of conductor/composer James Reese Europe. Historical notes at end give extensive information about which people and events are real, the influence of war on race relations in the U.S., women's roles in World War I, and that war's historical effects. Selected bibliography provides resources for further learning. A few phrases in French aren't translated but have context clues.

Positive Messages

Life is a "brief and fleeting gift." Home, family, freedom, safety, beauty, and love are precious, worth fighting for against those who would destroy them. If you don't look at people more deeply than just surface appearance, you may miss something truly wonderful. Explores cultural attitudes toward African Americans at the time between Europeans, mostly French and Belgian, and the U.S. through how an all-black army unit is treated at home and abroad. Also explores survivor guilt; how people cope when they don't understand why they survived tragic or horrific events and others didn't.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All four teen characters model bravery, honesty, loyalty, compassion, integrity, empathy. They face challenges head on, do what they have to, are willing to work hard to help war effort and people affected by war. They're responsible and caring, and do what's right. 


Wartime invasion, battles, atrocities such as massacres and racially motivated murders and beatings are described or mentioned briefly. Blood, injuries, pain are described briefly and without gore. A past rape is implied. A sexual assault with licking and forcing the tongue in the victim's mouth is briefly described. Some descriptions of a military sharpshooter killing people. A gruesome but not gory description of how a soldier might die. A train wreck from a military attack mentions injuries and being near death. A man dies after he's attacked with a pocket knife.


Some brief mentions or descriptions of kissing; one also mentions kicking off shoes and pulling at clothing. Characters think and talk about being in love. Some descriptions of romance and attraction.


A few times bad guys use racial slurs like "coon," "darkie," and "negras." Also rare:  "s--t," and "bastards." Some verbal hostility.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A mention of drinking "resin liquid" from a flask. A memory of the sweet smell of pipe tobacco. Soldiers in trenches smoke and teach fresh troops how to exhale the smoke without giving away their numbers or position to the enemy.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Julie Berry's Lovely War is a romance about two young couples during World War I. Sexual content focuses on romantic feelings and a few brief kisses, but a Greek myth about an adulterous affair provides the framework. Wartime violence, including some atrocities, are described mentioning blood, injuries, and pain but without being gory. Lots of accurate historical information and extensive notes at the end add more detail and explain which people and events are real. There's one mention of drinking alcohol. Soldiers in trenches talk about how to exhale tobacco smoke without giving away their numbers or position. Strong language is very rare but includes some racial slurs like "coon" and "negras," and there's one "s--t" and one "bastard." All four main characters are great role models for doing their part, even when it's hard, and they show compassion, empathy, and integrity. Messages are positive about what's worth fighting for and how precious and short life is.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPanda Incognito April 14, 2019
This book is SO UNSPEAKABLY GOOD. It is everything I could possibly want out of historical fiction, and the dual love stories are phenomenal beyond imagination.... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byCamille Reads April 30, 2019

This book is amazing!

I LOVED everything about this book. From the sweet innocent romance to the concept of Aphrodite’s narrating. It’s the story of four people (two couples), who al... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byEklipsis January 19, 2020

What's the story?

In LOVELY WAR, the Greek god Hephaestus has caught his wife Aphrodite in an affair with Ares, the god of war. Hephaestus captures them in a magical net and wants to drag them off for punishment. But Aphrodite, goddess of love, wants to defend herself by telling the story of two young couples who meet and fall in love during World War I. The lives of Hazel, James, Aubrey, and Colette are about so much more than love, so Aphrodite calls on Apollo, Hades, and Ares himself to fill in the parts they played in the four young lives. From the Belgian countryside to the Harlem Renaissance, these four young people learn about living and loving, for the ages.

Is it any good?

This beautifully written historical romance has it all. Lovely War weaves love, loss, jazz, war, Greek gods, and so much more together with relatable and unforgettable characters, against the backdrop of sweeping changes in the lives of millions. Framing the two epic love stories with Aphrodite pleading her case to Hephaestus adds a timeless quality to the sweeping wartime romance.

Author Julie Berry is as skillful at narrating large-scale war action as she is at finding real poignancy in small, intimate moments. Keep a tissue handy for surprisingly moving moments sprinkled throughout.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Lovely War depicts World War I. Does it seem realistic? Did you know much about the war before you read this book? Go to the library or search online to learn more about the real people and events in the story.

  • Who was your favorite character? What are that person's strengths and weaknesses? What did you like about him or her? Were there any characters you didn't like?

  • Did you like that the Greek gods tell the story, or do their parts get in the way of the story? Look up the original myth about Hephaestus and the unbreakable net. How is it different from this book?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate