No Man's Land
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No Man's Land

5.0 1
by S.T. Underdahl

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Brian came home from Afghanistan.But he brought the war back with him. If life were a movie, my role would be Emo Kid/Family Loser. My brother Brian would star as Master of the Universe. You might think it would be easy to resent him, but my brother is impossible to hate. Just like everyone else, I'm thrilled to have Brian back home from Afghanistan in one piece.


Brian came home from Afghanistan.But he brought the war back with him. If life were a movie, my role would be Emo Kid/Family Loser. My brother Brian would star as Master of the Universe. You might think it would be easy to resent him, but my brother is impossible to hate. Just like everyone else, I'm thrilled to have Brian back home from Afghanistan in one piece. But he's different now. Everyone refuses to see my brother's dark secret. What will it take for them to wake up and face the ugly truth? Praise for The Other Sister: "Gently touching and ultimately hopeful, Underdahl lets the reader know that while the past can't be erased, a new and loving present can be created—a vivid and moving story."—Kirkus Reviews "This vivid, realistic portrait of a family in transition will hold readers' interest to the very last page."—School Library Journal Praise for Remember This: "This demure novel's veritas provides compelling reading."—VOYA "Heart-felt and touching. The mix of serious issues and lighter fare will appeal to a wide audience."—KLIATT

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Underdahl's subtle, voice-driven novel explores the effects of PTSD on the relatives of a soldier afflicted by it. Sixteen-year-old Dov Howard accepts his role as an outcast emo kid who talks to his pet gecko; the younger brother of war hero Brian, Dov is generally unnoticed by anyone outside his small circle of friends. His circumstances change when Brian returns home from Afghanistan and starts drinking a lot and acting strangely. At the same time, an attractive new girl named Scarlett transfers to Dov's school, and Dov begins finding dark, confessional poems slipped into his books. To the confusion of the family, Brian continues to spiral out of control, with much of his disintegration taking place off-camera. Underdahl (Remember This) allows Dov's self-deprecating humor and personal troubles to drive the story, rather than having his life revolve too simplistically around his older brother. Despite predictable romantic elements, the story smartly confronts both PTSD and the generational impact of war without making them the sole focus. Ages 12–up. Agent: Quinlan Lee, Adams Literary. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Keri Collins Lewis
Sixteen-year-old Dov feels like the family loser. His grades are not stellar, he prefers art to athletics, and he is in love with one of his teachers. Compared to his popular older brother, Brian, Dov is a disappointment. His trucker father is constantly on the road, and his mother is obsessed with news about the war because Brian has been deployed to Afghanistan with the National Guard. When Brian is hit by a roadside bomb and sent home, Dov's feelings of helplessness worsen as his family avoids dealing with Brian's depression and increasingly erratic behavior. Underdahl, a clinical neuropsychologist, realistically and honestly depicts Brian's struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. She effectively builds parallels in the various characters' story lines to show patterns of denial as well as the role of counselors and therapists. The book's message is important as more soldiers return from the war with PTSD and need help and understanding from their families. However, the novel is weakened by its heavy reliance on stereotypes: the emo kids, the Middle Eastern friend, the abused girl, the hometown hero, and the blue collar family. Because the story is told from Dov's perspective as he is impacted by the serious problems of others, the reader can feel removed from the intensity of the story's main conflict. The novel's pace is generally slow but builds to a dramatic climax as Brian loses touch with reality. Dov is a quiet hero whose support of his friends and family will resonate with teens. Reviewer: Keri Collins Lewis
VOYA - Stephanie Wilkes
Dov Howard is a typical emo high school student. Surrounded by a group of great friends, he is content with his lifestyle, even if his vintage clothing makes his mother cringe, but things change when he meets a new transfer to his school. For reasons that Dov cannot explain, he is drawn to Scarlett, who suffers with her own problems, and tries to befriend her and introduce her into his group of friends. While dealing with his newfound friendship with Scarlett, Dov finds out that his brother has been sent home early from Afghanistan, after an attack on his unit leaves him the only living solider. When Brian returns, Dov quickly realizes that his idolized brother is no longer the happy-go-lucky guy he used to be. Befriending Jack Daniels and sleeping with pistols, Brian shows obvious symptoms of wartime post-traumatic stress disorder, making Dov more than a little nervous about spending time with his brother. When a violent standoff occurs among Brian and Dov's best friend and his father, both Pakistani, Dov is forced to come clean about his concerns for Brian's health. Brief news vignettes at the beginning of chapters describing 9/11 and the wartime effort felt out of place, and, while Brian's story is an excellent portrayal of wartime post-traumatic stress disorder, the majority of the story felt forced and the situations presented, too unrealistically construed to have wide appeal. Reviewer: Stephanie Wilkes
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Underdahl has written a jarringly accurate portrayal of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When football star and all-around golden boy Brian Howard comes back home with a Purple Heart after his tour of duty in Afghanistan is cut short by injury, 16-year-old Dov quickly discovers that his brother has changed. He is breaking off his engagement with his fiancée, drinking heavily, and sleeping with a pistol, and Dov is sure his brother is going to snap at any moment. Couple this with Dov's other high school problems including bullying, crushing on a teacher, uncertainty about a new girl who has moved into town, and his gecko who has quit eating, and emo-kid Dov feels like things are spiraling out of control. While there are many components to the plot, the author explores all of the situations in depth, and the book does not seem overburdened. The language, although raw, is appropriate for the content. Underdahl doesn't provide easy answers, nor does the novel come across as didactic even though readers are left feeling the ramifications of war. Timely and insightful.—Tammy Turner, Centennial High School, Frisco, TX
Kirkus Reviews
When survival seems worse than death. Sixteen-year-old Dov Howard, a self-proclaimed emo kid, has gotten used to living in the shadow of his older brother, Brian, the local football hero. Enlisted in the National Guard in 2001, Brian suddenly finds himself on a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, and once again, Dov can't measure up. Dov's heartfelt and evenly paced first-person narration incorporates authentic dialogue and issues that matter to teens. He absorbs the problems of his fellow emo friends, braces against school bullies and wonders about new classmate Scarlett, who arrives with troubles of her own. After his family hears their worst fear--that Brian has been injured in an attack--they are relieved to discover that he survived the explosion. Dov is the first to notice the golden boy's dark homecoming when Brian begins secretly drinking, experiences sleep disturbances, becomes depressed and exhibits other signs of PTSD. When his brother's symptoms become life-threatening, Dov immediately takes control of the situation to get Brian the help he needs. Intermittent news headlines from the time foreshadow Brian's downward spiral, as does Dov's progressively ailing pet gecko. The author, also a neuropsychologist, emphasizes the strengths of talking through problems without being didactic. Learning to focus on others, even in times of stress, Dov shows that bravery comes in many forms. (author's note) (Fiction. 13 & up)

Product Details

North Star Editions
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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Meet the Author

S. T. (Susan Thompson) Underdahl is the author of Remember This and No Man's Land. In addition to writing, Underdahl is a clinical neuropsychologist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of individuals suffering from brain injury or dementia. She is also a clinical supervisor of graduate students at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, where she lives with her family.

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