Age 14

Age 14

4.8 5
by Geert Spillebeen
     
 

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It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Patrick Condon wants to escape his unexciting life in Ireland. So he hatches a plan. Not wanting to wait until he is old enough to join the army, Patrick lies and says he seventeen years old, and that his name is John Condon. Assuming the identity of his older brother, Patrick enlists.

John fits in quickly, though it is obvious…  See more details below

Overview

It is 1913, and twelve-year-old Patrick Condon wants to escape his unexciting life in Ireland. So he hatches a plan. Not wanting to wait until he is old enough to join the army, Patrick lies and says he seventeen years old, and that his name is John Condon. Assuming the identity of his older brother, Patrick enlists.

John fits in quickly, though it is obvious that John is not 17, or even 16. That doesn’t matter. John is strong, fast, and a hard worker. He loves military life. This man’s world is just what John wanted. But when WWI begins in 1914, John gets all he has been looking for, and more he does not expect, as he is just a boy...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Patrick Condon, a strapping Irish boy who, even at age 10, stood “head and shoulders” above his peers, dreams of joining the military. His opportunity comes at age 12 when, posing as his older brother, he successfully enlists as a part-time soldier with the Militia Battalion shortly before the onset of WWI. His training sessions seem like a game; the grim reality of fighting an actual battle doesn't set in until two years later when Patrick, who has advanced to the status of full-time soldier, is called to defend France and Belgium. Facing trench warfare firsthand, Patrick wonders, “What is worse? To be hit by a piece of shrapnel that tears off a limb and rips open your belly? Or to be killed right away?” Based on historical facts, this tale of an underage soldier captures the initial excitement and ultimate disillusionment of men, young and old, fighting at the front. Spillebeen's choice to reveal Patrick's fate in the first chapter may lessen the suspense, but readers will be emotionally prepared to bear the story's conclusion. Unadorned prose expresses unsettling truths in straightforward, clear terms. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)\
Children's Literature - Greg M. Romaneck
It is 1913 and Patrick Condon leaves his home in Ireland to find a job. He is only twelve but Patrick assumes the identity of his older brother John and joins the military. At the age of fourteen Patrick is in the British Army and headed to France where terrible fighting has already occurred in the first months of World War I. The regiment Patrick serves in is sent north to the Belgium front where some of the bloodiest fighting is taking place. At the ruined city of Ypres Patrick experiences all the horrors of war. Some of his comrades are literally blown to bits before his eyes. Wounded soldiers and horses scream out for help and there is little Patrick can do. A new invention of the Germans, poison gas, is used at Ypres and Patrick watches in terror as men die in agony. Finally, Patrick becomes a victim of the war's violence and his identity is partially unveiled. Age 14 is the product of over two years of careful research by its author. Patrick Condon was a real Irish soldier serving the British cause. The events of this novel are based upon fact. But even though this is a worthy book that will have some appeal to youngsters, it remains one that lacks elements of character development. In addition, the brief insertion of a pedophile dock boss and the callous German inventor of poison gas seem like plot artifices rather than additions. These defects make Age 14 a sound but not great adolescent historical novel. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—In 1913 Ireland, 12-year-old Patrick Condon lies about his age in order to join the military. Based on the true story of a World War I soldier who died when he was 13, Age 14 captures the brutality and boredom of the life of a soldier during this period. In addition, the introduction of mustard gas as a German weapon is a major plot point. Spillebeen has clearly spent a great deal of time researching her subject. Unfortunately, in re-creating the boy's life in such detail, the first half of the book drags in places. The intricacies of the hierarchy of the Irish military are never quite clear, and are occasionally confusing. The second half of the book, however, which details Patrick's experiences in the trenches around Ypres, Belgium, moves much more quickly. There are occasions when the English translation feels unauthentic. An author's note provides information about not only the real Patrick Condon and Fritz Haber (the inventor of mustard gas), but also about the methods the author used for research. While this is a fine historical novel, it will be more useful in a school setting than in a public library.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH
Kirkus Reviews
Patrick Condon longs to be a soldier. He's big and tough for his 12 years, and he feels ready, so he runs away to enlist in the Irish militia, upping his age five years and claiming his older brother John's identity. The year is 1913, the place rural Ireland and the rumblings of World War I already audible. When Germany invades Belgium and Great Britain declares war, "John" is catapulted into a bloodier adventure than he had imagined. The novel is episodic (sometimes wonderfully immediate, sometimes more reportorial), but frequent scene-setting demarcations keep the chronology clear. The boy enters too soon into the sexualized, beery world of adults and the horrors of war, but John remains an enthusiastic soldier, wincingly so in context. Cruelty is counterbalanced by kindness as John finds a new, closer kind of family in the trenches before he, almost age 14, is killed in battle. Translated from Dutch, this riveting Belgian novel-based on a true story-reminds readers of the world's many child soldiers as it sledgehammers the notion of glorifying war. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 13 & up)
From the Publisher

"Based on historical facts, this tale of an underage soldier captures the initial excitement and ultimate disillusionment of men, young and old, fighting at the front. Spillebeen's choice to reveal Patrick's fate in the first chapter may lessen the suspense, but readers will be emotionally prepared to bear the story's conclusion. Unadorned prose expresses unsettling truths in straightforward, clear terms."--Publishers Weekly

"Young adults who have read Kipling’s Choice (BCCB 6/05) will recognize that Spillebeen is returning to a prior technique: a fact-based fictionalization of World War I events…While many novelists pack an anti-war message into their work, none surpasses Spillebeen for ripping the glamour and heroics out of the battlefield."--Bulletin

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547417424
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
10/19/2009
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Lexile:
790L (what's this?)
File size:
114 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Geert Spillebeen lives in Izegem, Belgium, where he is a journalist and radio presenter. This is his first novel published in the United States.

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