Battle Fatigue

Battle Fatigue

by Mark Kurlansky
     
 

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Growing up in the years following World War II, Joel Bloom always played war or baseball with his friends. They dreamed of fighting in the military or leading the Dodgers to the World Series. But by the time he's eighteen, the Vietnam War is in full swing, and it's not as simple as the war he learned about when he was a kid. Old enough to be drafted, Joel loves his

Overview

Growing up in the years following World War II, Joel Bloom always played war or baseball with his friends. They dreamed of fighting in the military or leading the Dodgers to the World Series. But by the time he's eighteen, the Vietnam War is in full swing, and it's not as simple as the war he learned about when he was a kid. Old enough to be drafted, Joel loves his country, but he knows that fighting in an unjust war isn't something he can do. After trying and failing to be a Conscientious Objector he leaves for Canada-a decision that will help him avoid the conflict of war, but will create one inside of him that will take much longer to resolve. In an insightful and compelling novel from bestselling nonfiction writer Mark Kurlansky comes an exploration of one boy's struggle to understand himself amidst the harsh realities of life during wartime.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kurlansky shifts gears—not entirely successfully—from nonfiction (Salt) and adult literature (Boogaloo on Second Avenue) to YA fiction. Joel Bloom, a Jewish boy in post-WWII Massachusetts, grows up playing war games and cheering on the Brooklyn Dodgers. As the book follows him from age seven into adulthood, his interest in baseball never wanes, but he slowly starts to realize that he’s opposed to the growing Vietnam conflict that is consuming his generation. His moral evolution is affected by his teachers in high school and college, news reports, and stories from older friends who have joined the military, but it’s his college girlfriend, Rachel, who draws Joel fully into the antiwar movement. Kurlansky uses an uneasy mix of diary entries and first-person, present-tense flashbacks, which are largely indistinguishable from each other, to create a disaffected narrative voice that warps through the years and events of Joel’s life; the occasional bit of poetic pretentiousness—“Bobby Kennedy’s death was the final death of wounded hope”—offers some variety. Likewise, the rushed ending feels anticlimactic and robs the book of genuine pathos. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
VOYA - Meghann Meeusen
Joel Bloom spends his childhood trying to understand the troubling and confusing concept of war. As a young boy, he plays games reenacting battles fought by his World War II veteran father and uncle, but questions how a person or country decides to fight for a cause. This uncertainty continues as he grows up during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. He knows that war will define his life just as it did for those in his father's generation, but soon realizes that battle lines are far less clear when the war is his own. When his effort to avoid the draft as a Conscientious Objector fails, Joel must decide how to stand up for what he believes and come to grips with the consequences of doing so. Battle Fatigue follows the moving story of a boy who loves baseball and seeks what it means to be American in a time of drastic change. Filled with metaphor and, at times, heart-wrenching poignancy, the text reveals much about the complexity of war and social action. Although the first person narrative style may draw young people to Joel's internal battles, teen readers might struggle to connect with the story's occasionally heavy-handed reflections or Joel's initially childlike voice expressing bewilderment at adult politics. Nonetheless, in following Joel's journey from child to adult, readers can learn a great deal about the profound impact of war and how the battles, even if they are internal, can be life altering. Reviewer: Meghann Meeusen
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Joel Bloom grows up in the shadow of World War II, his father, uncle, and neighbors having served their country proudly. The idea of war is entrenched in his boyhood experiences and those of his friends, and they spend much of their time playing at war, choosing sides in stereotypical portrayals of Nazis and Japanese. They grow up knowing they will fight "their war." Yet, when he turns 18 and it comes along, Joel finds himself unable to fight. He defers being drafted by entering college, where he participates in antiwar demonstrations. After graduation, he takes a stand as a conscientious objector, but the government denies him that option. Now he must decide whether he will do what others expect him to do or follow his own moral code and head to Canada. Joel narrates this coming-of-age story that shows his gradual development. The novel fulfills an important role for teens who may not know about the personal side of men who escaped the Vietnam War by leaving the country, and the reasons they did so. However, while the characters are believable, they are underdeveloped. Also, the pace is too slow, and the ending is anticlimactic.—Wendy Scalfaro, G. Ray Bodley High School, Fulton, NY

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802723475
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
10/25/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
314 KB
Age Range:
12 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Mark Kurlansky is the best-selling author of Salt: A World History and Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World for adult readers, as well as their adaptations for children, The Story of Salt and A Cod's Tale. This is his first novel for teens.
www.markkurlansky.com.
MARK KURLAN SKY is the bestselling author of Salt: A World History and Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World for adult readers, as well as their adaptations for children, The Story of Salt and A Cod's Tale. www.markkurlansky.com

Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, NY
Date of Birth:
December 7, 1948
Place of Birth:
Hartford, CT
Education:
Butler University, B.A. in Theater, 1970

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