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Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI
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Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI

4.5 64
by Ryan Smithson

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Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was just out of high school. At age nineteen he was deployed to Iraq. His year in combat changed his life.

This is his story. It will change the way you feel about what it means to be an American.


Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve when he was just out of high school. At age nineteen he was deployed to Iraq. His year in combat changed his life.

This is his story. It will change the way you feel about what it means to be an American.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In this raw and powerful memoir, veteran Smithson recounts his time as an army engineer in Iraq. As a student in suburban Albany, he joins the army after 9/11. While in Iraq, he's shot at and faces mortar attack, but he spends more time on responsibilities like methodical cleanups of roadside bomb craters-work that's as vital, if not as sexy, as actual combat. Smithson's interactions with Iraqi children and families, as much as with his fellow soldiers, drive the story. Military biography clichés-from the indoctrination of boot camp ("they break us down, build us up, break us down again, and then build us back up") to resentment of officers among the enlisted-abound because they're no doubt true. But the real meat of the book is in Smithson's dealings with American noncombatants, from the little boy who sends care packages to the pilot who insists on upgrading him to first class and his wife and parents. Smithson avoids writing either prowar propaganda or an antimilitary polemic, providing instead a fascinating, often humorous-and occasionally devastating-account of the motivations and life of a contemporary soldier. Ages 14-up. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
VOYA - Jennifer McConnel
Ryan Smithson was sixteen when the World Trade Center was destroyed on September 11, 2001. He remembers being a self-absorbed teenager at the time, one who could not quite put into words his decision to join the Army Reserve. Ryan's deployment to Iraq two years later shredded his innocence, shaped his life, and is told here in this brutal autobiography. From boot camp to Iraq and back to life in the United States, this autobiography reads like the work of therapy that Smithson claims it as, overflowing with pain and confusion, populated with imagery that teeters on the edge of being brutally obscene. The power of Smithson's experience cannot be denied, and he strives to convey to his readers the lessons he learned while serving in the Army: that death ultimately defines life, that freedom cannot be appreciated before it is lost, and that chaotic evil is the necessary foil to all the positive aspects of humanity. Readers will close this book shaken and potentially nauseated by the casual portrayal of wartime violence, but they also will have an idea of what it is like to be a young veteran. Teens who enjoy stories of war will devour Smithson's text, but it is not a book for everyone. It is all too easy to miss Smithson's point and to see this book as simply an autobiography of pain, gore, and personal trauma. Reviewer: Jennifer McConnel
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up

Smithson experienced the events of 9/11 while in high school and responded by enlisting in the Army Reserve after graduation. He married his high school sweetheart before being deployed to Iraq. Once there, he worked as an equipment operator in an equipment platoon, and while mortar fire was a regular occurrence, the missions he describes were all about bulldozing berms, filling craters created by IEDs, and convoying lumber. One gruesome section describes salvaging parts from Humvees in which soldiers died. A few missions, though, were more in the line of favors to the local population than anything that helps combatants. Some of the author's most poignant passages are his descriptions of interactions with Iraqi children. Where he was expecting rock-throwing, he encountered barefoot, dirty children grateful for the water the soldiers gave them. It is these children and the villagers he met that help explain for him the purpose of the war. The book ends with Smithson's return home, his almost magical escape from night terrors, and his work with children in his own hometown. Writing proves to be his therapy for PTSD. There are mixed metaphors aplenty, crude and morbid humor, and other evidence of a young author, but it all works together to create a tough but powerful look at one man's experience.-Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Kirkus Reviews
Ryan Smithson was a typical 16-year-old high-school student until 9/11. "I'd thought about joining the military the moment I saw the towers fall," he writes in this profoundly moving memoir. Smithson enlisted in the Army Reserve the following year and, a year into the Iraq war, was deployed to an Army engineer unit as a heavy-equipment operator. His poignant, often harrowing account, especially vivid in sensory details, chronicles his experiences in basic training and in Iraq. "Only after we have been completely destroyed can we begin to find ourselves," Smithson writes of basic training, offering an unflinchingly honest portrait of the physical and psychological brutality of that experience. His account of his tour of duty in Iraq is no less compelling. He lucidly recounts the intensity of battle and the pain of losing comrades. For Smithson, the war is a source of personal enlightenment, and this memoir is a remarkable, deeply penetrating read that will compel teens to reflect on their own thoughts about duty, patriotism and sacrifice. (Memoir. YA)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)
HL750L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Ryan Smithson joined the Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq as an engineer at the age of nineteen. Upon returning, he earned an AAS degree in criminal justice. Specialist Smithson doesn't know if he'll be deployed again. He currently works for the American Red Cross as a mobile unit assistant and lives with his wife in upstate New York.

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Ghosts of War 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 65 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think it is really inspiring! He made me want to join the army!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a Great Book! for Military lovers. Or others, but Great book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Had to do a report in my history class and i chose this book for some reason. So glad i did!! One of thr best books ive ever read!
Kellen26 More than 1 year ago
Amazing book, best I have ever read, truly inspirational.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grea structure and wrihting. A must read!!
zachLane More than 1 year ago
"Ghosts of War" is a thrilling novel based on a true story written by Army solider Ryan Smithson, who plays as the novel’s main character. This novel provides the exceptional realization of life in an ongoing war, and the many struggles it includes. The novel’s well written format fills your senses with emotion, and your veins with adrenalin within every tuning of a page. Ryan Smithson, was only 19 years old and attending high school as a senior, when the bombing of the World Trade Center occurred. Knowing where his loyalty lied, Ryan signed the paperwork and enlisted as a solider of the United States Army. Ryan’s loyalty was also significant to Heather, his high school sweetheart who wasn’t fond of his choice. The couple struggled throughout deployment after deployment, as the distance tried to win custody of their relationship. Overall, Ghosts of War was the refreshment I needed after a personal absence of book reading. I highly recommend this book for others who enjoy the history and violent battles that shaped America, and in doing so today. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a fantastic look at the reality of being a soldier today. Very insightful, easy to read and follow. It is a great book.
Kyle Connell More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is honestly the most magnificent book I have ever read. The story is is just wonderful.
Robert Kauffman More than 1 year ago
you will never feel the same way about the way you live after you read this. the author knows how to pull your heart strings. and i thank god for the men and women like him out there.
shadowgirl113 More than 1 year ago
bearly bought the book today and i cant stop reading im sixteen and thinking of signing up and this book is helping me a lot love you Ryan the book is a different perspective of joining and an emotional one
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An all around great book. The writing of his experiences seems so real, like I was watching it all happen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book make me apriciate my freedom evan more. Makes me want tl join the army evan more.
Nookrules1 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I have read countless books about various wars. Most books focus on the "heros" the Spec Ops guys,(SEALS, TEIR 1) or the big battles or missions. This book give you a really good understanding of what the average GI goes through when they are depoyled to a combat zone. I never serviced, but talking with a number of my friends that have this book rings true to their experinces. The struggle he went through coming home after his deployment is what alot of my friends have went through to one degree or another. Highly recommend reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If everyone could read this book, they'd come to understand that being President is not all glamor and glory....but very hard work!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dam terrist osoma bin bromen
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book Ghosts of War was almost an inspiring book, it taught you a few life lessons and how to handle disipline. It also showed how tough boot camp can be, in the book Ryan Smithson is a 19 year old GI and he goes to the army. He starts off by explaining the prosess odf boot camp. Through out the book he gives the reader an idea of how war is. Or at lease a general idea. I think the book "Ghosts of war" was a great Non-Fiction book, I really liked how the author Ryan Smithson told the story from his point of view since the book was about his experience in the war and the process he went threw. That included the boot camp process and how that effected him as a person and made him into a man.Something I did not like about the book was it was too long for wat needed to be explained to get his point across. somethings I did like is the fluency and Smithson gave some pictures in the middle of the book that were actually taken while he was in Iraq. Another thing I really thought was interesting is his writting style. I would recommend this book too other people if they are into the content of this book. it does have some inapropriate language but other then that it is worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Im a big military buff, first book i've read on the current conflicts. The way he talks about the death of Jason Nurre (actual name of his 1st KIA friend) was chilling. How a person is affected by actions can rarely be shown this well. Highly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a great book from apoint of view from a soldier. I had to read it for school and tha i the only book so far that I actually like I actually got a copy for myself to keep. It was a great read it felt you were atually there with Ryan.
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