As a wee lad, I wore my Uncle David’s corporal patch on my bathrobe, and decorated my bedroom in models of battleships and fighter jets. I played Army with the neighborhood kids and fought many imagined battles—though I don’t recall their mothers correcting their elocution in the middle of a skirmish as mine did. “It’s a HAND grenade, not a HANG grenade!”
I got a little closer to the service when, as I came of age, the US started requiring young men to register for the draft again. Around that time, I even scheduled some tests with a Marine recruiter—but he had to cancel, and I didn’t call back. Truth is, when I found out that my barely-less-than-perfect vision ruled me out as a fighter pilot, I lost interest (which tells you that I didn’t belong in a cockpit, or anywhere else making life and death decisions). All of which is to say, I may be talking military here, but I never served.
My wife, on the other hand, had a full military career before we met, so before I get to books, I’d like to offer a Memorial Day thanks to her and to all who serve or served. You picked up my slack.
And now some books:
The following are but a few of the many YA-ish, military-related works of fiction out there. These books cover several genre and time periods from ancient fantasy to contemporary to sci-fi. Some are shelved as adult books, but I think a teen reader would connect with them—certainly the main characters still retain much of their youth, if not their youthful innocence in the end.
Something like Normal by Trish Doller. The story of a modern soldier trying to cope with “normal” life in the States after seeing combat in Afghanistan. I have yet to read this one, but it comes highly recommended by friends and critics. It’s on my list.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. A modern sci-fi classic. Definitely one of those stories that lays out the plot through the characters rather than with a bunch of exposition. Lots of fascinating detail, and a relentless examination of both being in the military and being young.
Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. An older sci-fi classic. Like much of Heinlein’s ground-breaking work, this story examines the human condition while laying out the out the tropes we now think of a standard military sci-fi.
Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett. Typical Pratchett fantasy. It’s funny, well written, insightful, and doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of life even if the characters include trolls and vampires. Death and morality come in all shapes and sizes.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. I’m pretty sure I pretended to read the English translation of this World War I classic in eighth grade. Certainly I watched the movie on late night TV and then coached my friends who were taking a test on the book. Perhaps it’s time I gave it another try.
Not a classic, or even sold yet, but...
Marcus Addleberry by Me. Couldn’t resist tacking this one on. I recently completed this manuscript, and though it is not about the military, per-se, some of the characters are on active duty, and the military is part of the plot and setting. If those characters demonstrate less than ideal traits, I hope the reader understands that we all have baggage and that fallibility is that much scarier for someone in the service. Tell them thanks.