A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
For kids who love science fiction
Our editors recommend
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.