This Means War

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
This Means War Book Poster Image
Gentle look into gender roles; age-appropriate for tweens.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Readers will certainly learn about the Cuban Missile Crisis. They may want to know more about bomb shelters and the duck-and-cover exercises that the kids do at school.

Positive Messages

Ultimately, Lowell and Juliet are able to find a way to continue being friends -- and still make space for new people in their lives. Juliet is also able to stand up to the pushy Patsy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The author does a good job of presenting a wide spectrum of girls and boys with a variety of interests and personalities. Juliet is both strong and sensitive, and readers will understand both her feelings about the impending war -- and her complicated feelings for Lowell. Even when the neighborhood bully is arrested, Juliet feels sorry for him. Several characters do engage in dangerous behavior, from shoplifting to setting a barn on fire. The neighborhood bully ultimately ends up in a juvenile detention facility.


Some of the challenges involve risky behavior, like jumping from a high tree or climbing into the yard of a scary dog. During the final challenge, Bruce sets a barn on fire, and several of the kids get injured.


One girl has a crush on a boy, and they develop a very innocent relationship that involves walking and talking together.


Some words like "stupid" and "sissy."


Juliet's family owns a grocery store, and mostly because of this there are some references to products like Oreos, Zero bars, and Rice Krispies.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character shoplifts some cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book involves a series of challenges between a group of neighborhood boys and girls. Some of the challenges involve risky behavior, like jumping from a high
tree or shoplifting. During the final
challenge, the neighborhood bully sets a barn on fire and several of the kids get

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byMadmaddie26 March 8, 2012


This movie was Hilarious, even though it may have had a few cuss words in it. Its a movie that if your mature enough like in the teen range I think you would be... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 26, 2011

A little slow, but still a good read

The periods between contests aren't very fast-paced like the rest of the book. At the beginning it doesn't really appear to have much plot until you g... Continue reading

What's the story?

Juliet and Lowell used to be "inseparable," but now that he has new guy friends, he barely even speaks to her anymore. Thank goodness spirited Patsy moves to their town, instantly becoming Juliet's new best friend. But Patsy's got some serious opinions -- and when Bruce Wagner, the neighborhood bully, tells her, "There's boy stuff and there's girl stuff, and they aren't the same," she disagrees. To prove his point, Bruce proposes a series of tests -- like running races -- for the boys to face off against the girls. Juliet finds herself joining Patsy's team to show Lowell up, even as the tests become more and more dangerous.

Is it any good?

This book discusses some tough gender issues, introducing them to readers in a way that will make sense to them. Juliet is a sensitive but strong character, and readers will understand both how mad she is at Lowell, and how much she misses her old friend. Setting the book during the Cuban Missile Crisis was a stroke of genius; the impending war makes a powerful parallel to the more personal war that Juliet and Patsy are fighting against the neighborhood boys. Also, putting the book in the past also lets tweens talk about how much has changed when it comes to gender politics (and what hasn't).

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about gender issues. What's your take on these issues? Can girls and boys be friends? Is there such a thing as a "girls' sport" or a "boys' sport"?  Are you comfortable with society's roles for men and women? If not, what could you do to break them down?

  • This book was written during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Has life changed since then? What are some of the big and small differences you see between Juliet's life in the '60s and life now? For example, she doesn't know what yogurt is when she sees it in the supermarket -- but now even small markets have many varieties. What else did you notice?

  • The kids experience a lot of peer pressure in the book. One day, Bruce challenges them to shoplift from the store, for example, which several characters don't want to do. Have you ever been in a situation like that, where you know you something is wrong but you're afraid to say no? How did you deal with that situation?

Book details

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