Mare's War

Mare's War

by Tanita S. Davis


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375850776
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 01/25/2011
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 308,265
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 Years

About the Author

In addition to Mare's War, Coretta Scott King Honor winner TANITA DAVIS has written one other YA novel for Knopf, A la Carte. She was inspired to write Mare's War while researching her family's history: "I discovered an America I had never seen," said Davis, and it is that America her book brings to life.

Read an Excerpt


It's just a sporty red car parked across our driveway, but when I see it, my stomach plummets. It's my grandmother.

Already, I hate this summer. Usually, I laze around with my best friends, Eremasi and Rye, for the first few weeks until it's too late to get a job and then find a babysitting gig or two to keep my parents happy, but this year, my parents jumped in and planned my summer for me. Yesterday was the last day of school. Last night, Mom pulled out the suitcases and made us pack. We're going to some kind of a reunion—with my grandmother. Today.

My grandmother isn't at all normal. She doesn't read mystery novels, or sing in a church choir, or knit, or sew. She doesn't do the Jumbles in the newspaper, and she hates crosswords. She isn't at all soft or plump, doesn't smell like cinnamon, pumpkin bread, or oatmeal cookies. My grandmother, Ms. Marey Lee Boylen, is not the cookie type.

She wears flippy auburn wigs, stiletto shoes, and padded push-up bras. Once, when we were little, my sister, Talitha, and I found a pair of panties in her bathroom with a fake butt. (We kept snickering, "Fanny pants!" at each other and busting up all afternoon. My mother finally made us go sit in the car.)

My grandmother has long, fake nails and a croaky hoarse drawl, and she's always holding a long, skinny cigarette—unlit, otherwise my dad will have a fit—between her fingers. She's loud and bossy and she drinks bourbon with lemon juice at dinner. She has a low-slung red coupe, and Dad says she drives like a bat out of hell. She's almost eighty, and she still lives by herself in a town house stuck on a cliff near the Golden Gate Bridge. She takes the bus so she can avoid parking tickets and walks everywhere else on strappy high-heeled sandals.

Our journalism teacher, Ms. Crase, would say that my grandmother is colorful, like somebody from a book. I say my grandmother is scary, mostly because I never know what she's going to do next.

She talks to strangers. She asks questions—totally nosy ones—as if just because she's old, she can afford to be rude. She says what she thinks, she changes her mind every five minutes, and she laughs at me—a lot. She and I are completely different types of people.

I like predictability. I like maps, dictionaries, and directions. I like lists of things to do, knowing the answer, and seeing how everything fits. My grandmother is definitely one of those people who thrive on chaos and instability. She's what my mother calls a free spirit and what I call completely random.

She can't even go by a normal name. No one calls my grandmother Grandma or Granny or even Nana. When my parents got married, she said she didn't want anyone _calling her a mother-in-law. When my sister was born, my grandmother told Mom she didn't want anyone calling her a grandmother, either. They finally decided that the grandchildren were supposed to call her Mare, and that's what we all call her now, even my dad.

Mare. Mere. Like the French word for "mother." Which is just another example of how Mare is completely bizarre—I mean, we're not even French. And she's not our mother.

So going with her to a reunion is bad enough, but to make matters worse, we don't even really know where we're going. Mare has some whacked idea that it's more of an adventure if we just get in the car and drive east. And yeah, I said "car." See, since 2001, Mare won't fly—so we have to drive ALL ACROSS THE UNITED STATES.

In the middle of the baking-hot summer.

My grandmother, my sister, and me, all trapped in one car.
I'm not the only one who hates this idea. You should have heard my sister.

"What? Us?" Tali's voice had climbed. "Why do we have to go, Mom? They're Dad's relatives."

"They're your relatives, too," my mother reminded her. "And, Talitha, it's a long drive back east. It's not something your grandmother should attempt alone, and you know your dad can't take the time off of work until the end of June."

"Can't we just fly?" I groaned.

Mom shook her head. "You know Mare doesn't trust planes. She wants to see her people, so she's going to get in her car and drive to them."

"Oh, nice," Tali sighed. "This is just how I wanted to spend my summer break. With the slow and the dead."

"Talitha Marie," my mother had said in that dry-ice voice she uses. "Enough."

Tali had given my mother one last look and then yelled for Dad. But no matter who she whined to or argued with, the end result is the same: tomorrow, my sister and I are starting out on a 2,340-mile drive across the United States to somewhere in Alabama.

So much for summer vacation.

I'm not eager to see Mare, and neither is Tali, judging from the fact that she's sitting on the front porch with her backpack.

"Hey, what's Mare doing here already?" I ask, dropping my bag of library books on the step next to her. "Didn't she say we weren't leaving till eleven-thirty?"

Talitha shrugs, busily sending a text to one of her best friends, either Suzanne or Julie. "Don't know, don't care."

"Why are you waiting out here?"

"I'm not waiting. I'm texting, duh." Tali keeps her eyes on her cell.

I push up my sunglasses. "Well, if Mare wants somebody to wash her car, it's your turn."

"Fine. Last time she paid me twenty bucks."

"What?! She's never paid me anything!"

Tali glances up, her dark eyes barely visible above the edge of her blue-tinted sunglasses. "So? You should've asked."

Before I can answer, the front door swings open. "Girls, why are you outside? Mare's here."

Customer Reviews

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Mare's War 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
KarenBall on LibraryThing 30 days ago
2010 Coretta Scott King Honor Book"Aunt Josephine always says that running away from home was the best thing Mare ever did. You grandmother changed the world."Wish Goodreads had the image of the paperback cover -- I absolutely love it. Tavia and Talia are trapped on a summer roadtrip with their 80-year-old grandmother, Marey Lee Boylen. Mare's not a typical grandma -- no knitting, canes or sensible shoes for her. She wears stiletto heels, drives a red sports car, does whatever she wants and says EXACTLY what she thinks. When Mare announces she is driving across the country, from California to Alabama for a family reunion, her son decides that his two teenage daughters will go along to keep an eye on Mare and help her drive. Talia is like Mare, impulsive and adventurous, while Tavia is like her father, so cautious that she often can't do anything. Along their 2,000 mile journey, the girls hear Mare's stories about escaping rural Alabama and going off to join the Women's Army Corps in the 1940's, where she went to Europe to help fight World War II. The chapters alternate between their modern-day road trip and those stories of challenge, segregation, freedom and choices that the history books have mostly ignored. Mare is a character everyone should get to know! 6th grade and up.
TeddyR on LibraryThing 30 days ago
Octavia and her older sister Tali don't look forward to spending their summer vacation traveling across country with their eccentric grandmother, Mare. They both had other plans. Both girls, then, are surprised at how much they enjoy Mare's stories about her youth. Mare lied about her age to join the Army and became part of the only African American WAC Unit to serve overseas during World War II. Octavia and Tali are also amazed to hear of the desperate poverty that Mare grew up in in Alabama and of the rampant racism Mare faced in the Army. At the end of the book, the girls and Mare have a much deeper relationship and respect for each other.
Jemima79 on LibraryThing 30 days ago
When Octavia and Tali are forced to spend their summer going on a road trip with their eccentric grandmother Mare, they do not expect to actually enjoy one moment. As the long trip proceeds the two sisters discover so much untold history and are inspired by Mare's past. She was a member of the African American battalion of the woman's army corps during World War II. Mare's experiences and friendships spark Octavia and Tali's imaginations and they immediately apply the lessons to their own lives and relationships. The book smoothly transitions between 'then' and 'now'. I found it easy to read because of its engaging characters and realistic flavor. The author's uniqueness shines through with the quirky characters and humorous touches. This book is a great read for any young person who wants to make something of their life even in difficult circumstances. I enjoyed Mare's War and am sure that others will also.
MarthaL on LibraryThing 30 days ago
Mare takes her two teenage granddaughters in a cross country trip to Alabama with the excuse of a family reunion. The trip itself is the story. As they take turns driving Mare tells her life story of struggle and adventure, growing up and away. The girls learn to appreciate the unique the opportunity their grandmother had to serve in the Army durning WWII. There is a contrast between the freedom blacks had in Europe and the segregration and discrimination they suffered in the rural South. A fascinating way to reveal a unique piece of history. The sisters send postcards back to family and friends in California. Chapters titles alternate: "then" and "now". Could be a good discussion book.
AngelaCinVA on LibraryThing 30 days ago
Marey Lee Boylen, known as Mare, is not a typical grandmother. For Octavia and Talitha, the prospect of a forced, cross-country road trip with their unpredictable grandmother is daunting, even if the mode of transportation is a red sports car. The already tense family relations quickly deteriorate as an argument erupts over Tali's use of headphones and Mare's smoking. After the two agree to a no headphones-no smoking pact, Mare passes the time by sharing stories about her youth in rural Alabama and her service in the 6888th African American battalion of the Women's Army Corps during World War II. What follows is a powerful story of a young woman¿s struggle for independence and her strength in the service of her country in the face of racism and segregation. For Mare, the Women¿s Army Corps is both an opportunity and a reminder of the realities of race relations in 1940s America. Davis tells the story in a series of alternating chapters. Headings of ¿Then¿ and ¿Now¿ differentiate Mare¿s narrative from younger granddaughter Octavia¿s reflections on the trip. Mare is strong, colorful character. But the secondary characters are equally compelling. Each member of the 6888th is an individual, from practical Peaches, who helps Mare learn to properly make a bed for inspection, to Ruby, the city girl from Texas who can¿t boil water. The diversity of African-American experiences is reflected in the descriptions of these women. Mare¿s granddaughters are strong, young women in their right whose respect for their unusual grandmother grows over the course of the trip. The chapters written from Octavia¿s point of view will help draw young readers into the story, Davis¿ vivid descriptions of Mare¿s exploits will hold their attention.Mare¿s War grew out of Davis¿ search through military records for information on her own grandmother. Through this story she sheds light on a little known era of American history and reminds readers of some of the unsung heroes of the war. Interested readers will find resources for further information in the author¿s acknowledgements.This book would make an excellent addition to any library. It deserves to be read because it is, quite simply, a wonderful book.
knitwit2 on LibraryThing 30 days ago
The book is told from the grand-daughter's perspective (present day) and from the reminiscences of the Grandmother's rich history (as a WAC in WWII). A fun way for kids YA's to learn about the contribution of black American women.
nbmars on LibraryThing 30 days ago
Mare¿s War for Young Adults is a [fictional] account of a woman who served in the [actual] 6888th Postal Battalion of the Women¿s Army Corps for African American women soldiers during World War II. Although this unit was trained for combat conditions, its primary function was to handle the thousands of pieces of backlogged mail in Europe during the war. In Mare¿s War, the parents of 15-year-old Octavia and 17-year-old Tali (Talitha) insist the girls accompany their 80-ish grandmother Mare on a cross-country driving trip from California to Alabama to see Mare¿s family. Mare is not a ¿normal¿ grandmother who bakes and crochets. As Octavia describes her, ¿She wears flippy auburn wigs, stiletto shoes, and padded push-up bras.¿ Octavia, our narrator on this odyssey, is also appalled that Mare is loud and bossy and says what she thinks. Both girls are dreading the trip.As they drive, Mare begins to tell them the story of growing up in rural Alabama and about her service in World War II, parts of her life the girls didn¿t know about before. Through Mare, we hear a detailed account of life in the 6888th. She shares with them the problems with racism and sexism the women encountered, and how differently they reacted to it back in the 1940¿s. They also hear about the pride of service by all these young women, and how well they mastered the tasks they were handed.The chapters alternate between the modern day road trip and Mare¿s memories. By the time the three get to Alabama, Mare has buried some old ghosts, and the two girls have a whole new appreciation of their grandmother.Evaluation: This entertaining and educational book contains all sorts of positive lessons for teens, from respect for elders to some of the services rendered by nonwhite Americans in World War II.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Super good book
JimRGill2012 More than 1 year ago
Told from the alternating perspectives of 15 year-old Octavia (an African-American teenager from California) and Mare, her elderly grandmother who enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II at the age of 17, this novel tells a heartwarming tale of intergenerational bonding while also filling a gap in historical knowledge. Mare narrates two chapters (all entitled “then”) for every one that Octavia narrates (all entitled “now”) as they drive from California to Alabama with Octavia’s older sister, Tali. Along the way, Mare tells her granddaughters the story of how she came to enlist in the army during WWII, trained in the south, and served overseas in England and France. Mare’s story, which comprises the bulk of the novel, addresses a number of serious issues—attempted child sexual abuse, family strife, poverty, racial discrimination and inequality, lesbianism—as it highlights the numerous “wars” that Mare fought while growing up and serving in the Army in the 1940s. Along the way, Octavia and Tali come to appreciate their grandmother’s struggles and learn more about American history, all the while developing stronger familial bonds of their own with each other and with their grandmother. The complementary narratives depict deeply contrasting stories of growing up as a Black woman during two different periods in American history. Educational without being pedantic, this novel serves as an entertaining way for adolescents to learn about and appreciate an often neglected aspect of American history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My teacher read this to us for our daily read aloud, and i loved the book so much i had to get it on my nook. But i dont recommend it to kids younger than 12
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whitestar of bloodclan
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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zaftigbabe More than 1 year ago
Two teens are stuck in a car with their crazy granny, Mare, as they drive cross-country to a family reunion. Along the way, Mare recounts her experiences in an all-black unit of the Women's Army Corps in World War II. The story cuts back and forth between Mare running off to join the Army and the two modern girls realizing just how spoiled they are compared to the Greatest Generation. Davis' straightforward narrative doesn't spare anyone's feelings, but this isn't a story about discrimination so much as it's about breaking through other people's expectations to become your own person -- in any day and age.
nileriver More than 1 year ago
Mare's War is about a grandmother who was in World War II . She is going on a road trip with her two grandduaghters who are caught up in there own world of MP3 players and cell phones , but while heading for a Family reuion down south from California the girls are forced , but enlightned to know the past of their grandma Mare's life and what she has done for herself and family . I loved the book and could not put it down such a great read that follows a fictional story with historical facts of the times frame around world war two with the African American army of women . I highly suggest you and your kids read this book .
Robin_Brande More than 1 year ago
Great blend of a history most of us never heard about--the "colored" women's unit of the U.S. Army during WWII--and a modern-day road trip with two girls and their tough, seen-it-all grandmother. Great family story, but also a very inspiring how-to--how to transform yourself from a poor, afraid, and powerless girl into an independent, kickass young woman. A book I'll gladly share with the teenage girls in my life!
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Going on a road trip with their wacky grandmother, Mare, is not at all how either Octavia or Tali wants to spend their summer. However, at Mare's insistence, they reluctantly agree to accompany her all the way across the country for some mysterious family reunion in Alabama. The girls don't know how they will survive all of this time cooped up together with each other and with Mare. Before they even leave the driveway, Mare is already driving Tali crazy with her smoking and Tali's headphones are equally unacceptable to Mare. The two make a pact to banish cigarettes and headphones for the trip, and do a pretty good job of keeping their word. To whittle away the hours as Mare drives, she tells stories of her younger years. Both Tali and Octavia are astonished to hear some of Mare's stories about growing up in the Great Depression and running away from home to serve in the WAC (Women's Army Corps) during World War II. Mare's struggles at home made joining the army seem like a wonderful proposition. The army provided a place to live where she would be safe from harm and fed three good meals a day. However, even though the WAC helped defeat the enemy in Europe, the segregation that Mare and the colored soldiers in 6888th Battalion, Company C face proves much harder to vanquish. Nevertheless, Mare's tough spirit and pride from her army days will always remain an integral part of who she is. After all she has been through, it is no wonder Mare thinks Octavia and Tali are spoiled. By the end of this trip, all three women grow closer and develop a newfound appreciation and respect for one another. Tanita S. Davis weaves a thoughtful tale, alternating chapters between the modern day road trip and Mare's stories of the olden days. Readers who enjoyed Sherri L. Smith's FLYGIRL will also love this tale with a similar historical background.