The War I Finally Won

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
The War I Finally Won Book Poster Image
Popular with kids
Ada shows courage in riveting English wartime sequel.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 10 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

A wealth of detail about World War II, especially day-to-day life for regular people in England -- rationing, neighborhood watch, etc. -- and how your house could just be taken over if the army wanted to use it. WWII buffs will recognize references to Bletchley Park and its code-breaking work.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of kindness, generosity, love, family, courage, loyalty, and learning to love and trust people after a lifetime of abuse. Also messages about the value of creative thinking, including knowing when to break the rules for a good cause.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Age 12 for most of the story, Ada shines as she tries to make sense of her new life, deal with wartime, do the right thing, and figure out what she believes and who she wants to be. She learns lessons in kindness, community, forgiveness, and family, and puts them into practice with courage and bravery. She doesn't always do what she's told, but it's often for a good, kind reason when she disobeys. Her friend Maggie often helps her see things from a different perspective. Maggie's brother Jonathan, an RAF pilot, shares Ada's love of horses and helps her in many ways. Adoptive mom Susan deals patiently and gracefully with the challenges of parenting kids who never knew kindness and normal life until she came along. Other adult characters are sometimes intimidating from a kid perspective, but they turn out to be kind and supportive.


It's wartime, and destruction and violence are everywhere. Several characters, including beloved ones, are killed in plane crashes, bombings, and the like, and others suffer injury and life-threatening illness. A Jewish character's grandmother dies in a concentration camp. Animals are killed for food. In one scene, a girl shows another how to shoot a horse to kill him instantly, but no such shooting happens. Entire towns and neighborhoods are destroyed in bombings.


It's never made explicit that Susan, the kids' adoptive mom, and her late friend, Becky, were a couple, but it's strongly suggested by the obvious depth of their bond, their longtime life together, and also the disapproval of some others, including Becky's father.


Meat is scarce, so the characters are thrilled to get a can of Spam.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink wine on special occasions.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The War I Finally Won, the sequel to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's Newbery Honor winner The War That Saved My Life, continues the first-person narrative of abused slum child Ada, 11, who's adjusting to her new life in an English village during World War II. As in the first book, Ada is relatable and cheer-worthy as she deals with being loved and cared for for the first time in her life -- and not being sure how much to trust it. There's lots of World War II historical detail: plane crashes, bombed neighborhoods, and a Jewish character's grandmother dies in a concentration camp, plus there's rationing, blackout curtains, keeping watch for bombers, and a boy on a bicycle who keeps delivering telegrams revealing that someone else has been killed in the war. There are strong messages about family, community, cooperation, kindness, and having the courage to think for yourself, as well as some about horses and how to care for them. As in the first book, there are suggestions that Susan -- Ada and her brother Jamie's adopted mother -- was once part of a couple with her late friend Becky, but it's never made explicit.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAuts32 May 9, 2021
Parent of a 11-year-old Written byBinge W. August 6, 2018

As good as the previous book, Not as scary and intense

Thematic war elements are the name of the game in this one.
Teen, 14 years old Written byPuppyLover002 December 8, 2020

Great For Middle School Students

This book was great. For me I did not read the first one but this was amazing and I still understood everything.
Kid, 10 years old September 15, 2020

Amazing book with complex topics!

What a great educational book that tells you a story about world war ll! There is some violence but no swearing actually said in the book as well as lots of edu... Continue reading

What's the story?

As THE WAR I FINALLY WON opens, England is fighting for its life in World War II, and 11-year-old Ada doesn't know what to believe or whom to trust. After a lifetime of abuse and neglect, she and her brother, Jamie, have been taken in by a loving woman, and for the first time she can walk, because her clubfoot's been surgically corrected. She can't escape the sense that it'll all be taken away again. Meanwhile, she's got plenty to deal with, as the war soon has her little family sharing a house with the intimidating Lady Thorton and with a teenage Jewish girl from Germany, who's fleeing Hitler. As the war takes its toll on her loved ones, Ada shows courage, creative thinking, and a willingness to change her mind as she finds herself and stands up for what she believes.

Is it any good?

Author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley delivers a rich, satisfying tale of courage, friendship, family, and love in this compelling sequel. As Ada adjusts to her new life as a wartime evacuee, she copes with fear, deprivation, danger, and daily squabbles. Best friend Maggie, little brother Jamie, and adoptive mom Susan -- as well as pony Butter -- offer loving support as death, disease, and the first signs of the Holocaust take their toll. Spirited Ada's courage inspires other characters, and readers will love cheering her on and following her character development as they learn more about a violent chapter of history.

The War I Finally Won can work as a stand-alone, but it's better if you've read The War That Saved My Life first.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how World War II is portrayed in The War I Finally Won. Are World War II stories still interesting and compelling today, or has the world changed too much for you to relate to them?

  • How would you feel if you and your family suddenly had to share your house with strangers because of some emergency?

  • Do you like secret codes? Have you ever used them to communicate with your friends? How did you come up with the code?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love historical fiction and coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

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