The Always War

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Always War Book Poster Image
Fast-paced dystopian quest for truth.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The Always War presents examples of how the military or other organizations might use disinformation to mislead the populace about important issues.

Positive Messages

The characters gradually learn to question the "facts" they have been given by their leaders. The novel suggests that it is better to face the truth of a situation, even if one cannot predict the consequences of doing so.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tess idolizes Gideon but gradually begins to recognize his very human flaws. Throughout the book, she has the ability to maintain hope even in the face of the direst situations.


The effects of a high-tech bombing mission on a civilian population are described, but in very little detail. The young characters are involved in a scuffle with some military types. They are drugged into unconsciousness but are not otherwise hurt.


Tess has a crush on Gideon, but little is made of it.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Always War is a fast-paced dystopian science-fiction adventure that details the stresses brought on by constant military conflict and examines the ways in which governments can misinform their populations about how and why wars are fought.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byathompso53 November 5, 2014


I thinks it a good book because it helps people learn about what happens when people are not in good situations and how other people can help to get out of bad... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byEllie10832 February 20, 2013

Awesome Read

This was an AMAZING Book!! I recomend it to anyone who enjoys disscussing political issues! This extremely epic book was a little cheesy at some times but not t... Continue reading

What's the story?

At some unspecified point in the future, a young girl named Tessa idolizes Gideon Thrall, the boy from the neighborhood who has gone on to become a war hero. After Gideon bolts from an awards ceremony and seems to suffer some kind of breakdown, Tess begins to spy him. Her obsession with Gideon causes her to stow away on a rogue airplane piloted by the boy, one heading directly into enemy territory and toward a secret neither of them can anticipate.

Is it any good?

In The Always War, Haddix delivers short, punchy chapters that keep the action moving, which will appeal to some readers. But the headlong pacing and the shouty dialogue undermine any sense of realism that Haddix might be trying for. Long-time science fiction fans may be able to guess the "big reveal" chapters before Tess and Gideon figure it out, but there are sufficient plot twists to satisfy those readers not thoroughly familiar with the strategies of dystopian fiction.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the fatigue that sets in when a country has been at war for a long time. Are there conflicts today that seem endless? How do people react to a constant sense of danger and deprivation?

  • At the beginning of the novel, Gideon has never physically visited enemy territory. How is technology shaping modern warfare in our time? How is guiding a drone missile different from being on the ground and directly confronting enemy combatants?

  • Margaret Peterson Haddix has written many middle grade and young-adult books, including the Missing and Shadow Children series. If you have read any of her other books, how do you think this one compares?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction

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