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WHILE HE WAS AWAY by Karen Schreck


by Karen Schreck

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: May 1st, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4022-6402-3
Publisher: Sourcebooks

When her boyfriend David leaves for a stint in Iraq, Penna is anxious and devastated, but eventually she finds ways to cope.

At first, observing Penna change from a girl totally absorbed in her boy to one who has other concerns, friends and responsibilities is like watching paint dry. But the pace rapidly picks up as both David and Penna become more caught up in their immediate environments. Penna discovers information about a grandmother who has been missing in her life, gets pulled into waiting tables at her mother’s restaurant and finds new friends with whom she can share her current life. In Iraq, David struggles with the mind-numbing work of patrols and the terror that interrupts it, and he focuses on an orphanage for Iraqi refugee children as a way to be useful. Strong characterization, the vivid setting of a small Oklahoma town and the clear depiction of present life, with Skype, e-mail and phones with their inadequate promise of instant communication, strengthen the narrative and ground it in the present. Paralleling Penna’s story is her discovery of a grandmother who lost her first husband in World War II. The perils of war limn the memories of the women left behind and cast into relief both their devotion and their need to continue to live separate and independent lives.

A strong entry in the growing genre of fiction about the Iraq war. (Fiction. 12 & up)