Warning: If you have not read “Girl At War” by Sara Nović, do not read this review if you do not want spoilers. If you don’t mind spoilers or already read the book, go ahead and read this!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s for “Girl At War” by Sara Nović. Here’s the summary so we know what it is about:
“Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Jurić is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.
Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost.”
The way the book is written is that the book is split into about three to four parts. Parts One and Three show Ana’s childhood and how her life for herself, her family and the people around them deteriorated because of the war going on in their land, while Parts Two and Four have her recollecting the memory of the war in the present day and then going back to Croatia to visit for the first time after ten years out of the country. I liked the definitive splits between the past and the present in the book, and it helped to clarify what time period I was reading about Ana in.
In terms of which parts were more enjoyable to read, I liked Parts One and Three best. They were the parts that felt like they flowed the most in terms of transitioning between events such as Ana losing her family and even using weapons against other people to survive, and they just felt gripping to read as a whole. Parts Two and Four were fine, but I didn’t feel as attached to them as I did for Parts One and Three. I also felt that Parts Two and Four just lagged a bit in terms of the events that happened in there as well.
As for the plot as a whole, I don’t feel like the ending was as good as it could be. I don’t know if it was intentional for the ending to be left so open-ended, but I feel like the situations brought up in the book (past and present day) were not fully resolved for Ana.
As for the characters themselves, none of the characters are given too much development save for Ana, whose story is reflected through her own experiences for the reader. Given that Ana was separated from her sister and that her parents are killed off by the end of Part One, as well as the fact that she was away from Croatia for ten years by the time of Parts 2 and 4, it almost makes sense that all of the other characters seem a bit flat. Ana herself feel this distance between her and the other people she used to know in her childhood, and for once the lack of development in the other characters really helps to reflect that feeling.
Overall, I give the book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. If you are interested in reading something a bit gritty and reflecting the life of civilians during a war, this might be the one for you to read.