The Always War Book Poster Image

The Always War



Fast-paced dystopian quest for truth.

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Author:Margaret Peterson Haddix
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:November 15, 2011
Number of pages:208

This review of The Always War was written by

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


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

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

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

Top advice and articles

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

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 to cheesy to ruin the story or the read! It was a little depressing (The main character lives in a war torn town). It also made me want to cry a little when it described the bombings. This story was great for me because it described the US like i think it will be in the near future. Also i must mention that it was a little unrealistic at times but not too badly. It didnt take long to read and my sister read it 3 times in a row! All in all it is a great book!
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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 situations.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?