AGE 14 by Geert Spillebeen

AGE 14

Age Range: 13 & up
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Patrick Condon longs to be a soldier. He’s big and tough for his 12 years, and he feels ready, so he runs away to enlist in the Irish militia, upping his age five years and claiming his older brother John’s identity. The year is 1913, the place rural Ireland and the rumblings of World War I already audible. When Germany invades Belgium and Great Britain declares war, “John” is catapulted into a bloodier adventure than he had imagined. The novel is episodic (sometimes wonderfully immediate, sometimes more reportorial), but frequent scene-setting demarcations keep the chronology clear. The boy enters too soon into the sexualized, beery world of adults and the horrors of war, but John remains an enthusiastic soldier, wincingly so in context. Cruelty is counterbalanced by kindness as John finds a new, closer kind of family in the trenches before he, almost age 14, is killed in battle. Translated from Dutch, this riveting Belgian novel—based on a true story—reminds readers of the world’s many child soldiers as it sledgehammers the notion of glorifying war. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 13 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-547-05342-4
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2009


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