War Girls, Book 1

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
War Girls, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Sisters endure separation in suspenseful sci-fi war novel.

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

Educational Value

The story takes the history of the 1967 Nigerian civil wars and sets it in 2172. Interested readers can research the history of when parts of the eastern region of Nigeria sought status as an independent nation, the Republic of Biafra. The book also portrays the lives of child warriors; this phenomenon exists today in Africa and other regions of the world. There are also descriptions of real-life technical concepts.

Positive Messages

Love conquers fear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

War Girls has wonderful representations of physically, emotionally, and intellectually capable girls. Girls protect and educate one another when war has dismantled normal life. They master technologies and make their own inventions. They train their bodies for strength and endurance. They fight bravely and nurture compassionately.


The setting is a war. There are shootings, bombings, fights with other weapons, and hand-to-hand combat. Also potentially disturbing graphic descriptions of injuries, such as the loss of limbs and eyes.


Brief mention of a kiss.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character drinks a psychedelic-drug-like substance for energy and healing after being injured in an attack.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi (Beasts Made of Night) is a science fiction novel that begins in in civil-war-torn Nigeria in 2172. It's the story of sisters living in an encampment for orphaned child warriors who are separated after an attack in which one of them is captured. There are a lot of violent scenes: shootings, bombings, fights with other weapons, and hand-to-hand combat, as well as potentially disturbing descriptions of injuries, such as the loss of limbs and eyes. One character drinks a psychedelic-drug-like substance for energy and healing after being injured in an attack. There's a brief mention of a kiss.

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What's the story?

WAR GIRLS begins in civil-war-torn Nigeria in 2172. Sisters Onyii and Ify live among other orphaned Biafran warriors. Nigerians are the enemy. Onyii has a mechanical arm, having lost her real one in the wall. She is older and directs Ify's education. Ify likes to tinker with tech, though Onyii discourages her. She's invented an earbud that gives her undetectable access to all of the information systems, including data from the augmented minds and bodies of her peers. A robot, Enyemaka, acts a governess. After an attack on the camp, they are separated: Ify is captured by the Nigerians. They build lives on opposite sides of the conflict until an opportunity arises for them to reunite.

Is it any good?

This is a suspenseful and heartbreaking story about the price of loyalty to a cause, other people, and yourself. In War Girls, three different female characters narrate the horrors of war: One of them is prepared to fight, to the death if necessary. Another uses her wiles and imagination to perceive more of the world than others can. The third is an innocent; she has faith and love but not much ability to understand. The conflicts that drive the book are rooted in whether any of them can survive without the complementary gifts of the others and whether they can find a way to reunite. In showing how they develop empathy for each other, the author creates characters who will evoke empathy in readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to be human in War Girls. Some characters have physical and mental capacities enhanced by electronics or machinery. Others are healed or restored from severe injury with fake parts. Still others can use technology to take in thoughts or sensory impressions. Which changes make a character seem more like a person? What makes a character seem like a robot or non-human? 

  • Onyi is a person of action who relies on her bravery and strength. Ify leans on her intellect. How do their differences complement each other? How do they cause conflict?

  • War Girls is set in 2172. The author uses the story to make commentary about the Nigerian Civil War of 1967, wars across the African continent in the 1990s and 2000s, and current problems like electronic pollution. How does the setting help the author communicate his messages?

Book details

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