Whether it’s a novel, comic book, biography, or something else, reading something that we relate to can bring cathartic emotions to the surface. Knowing that other people understand what we are going through helps us not feel alone. As military teens, we regularly face problems like concern for deployed loved ones, moving, and nerve-racking situations. Here are three fiction novels that relate to the military teen experience.
Anything But Okay by Sarah Darer Littman: When Stella’s older brother returns from Afghanistan, he isn’t the same. His behaviors due to PTSD soon make him a target in their town. Stella faces emotional turmoil that afflicts many military kids - from worry over family members to the pressure of new responsibilities to the sting of not feeling quite as important during rough times. Other important topics like racism, sexism, and the treatment of veterans in America are discussed in this novel that explores politics and family from a high schooler’s perspective.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling: This interesting title belongs to a charming story about a girl who moves from Kansas to Arizona. Although Aven is not from a military family and has lived in one place longer than many of us have, her struggles with adjusting echo our own experiences. Leaving behind friends, family, and the comfort of familiarity is almost never easy. But Aven’s story reminds us not to stay wrapped up in our own troubles. If we remember that we are not the only ones who feel different, we can find others who need a friend just as much as we do.
Refugee by Alan Gratz: With three main characters from three different periods of history, this might be a good novel for history buffs. Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud hail from 1930s Germany, 1990s Cuba, and 2010s Syria. All three must suddenly depart to an unknown future in foreign lands. With danger and pain all around them, Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud must hold tight to survival and find strength they didn’t know they had. Although pain and hardship feature hugely in the story, hope shines through. It is the driving force behind every action the characters take. We can learn from their example. Even when circumstances are scary or new, whether it’s a new school or a parent being deployed, Refugee reminds us to keep hope at all times.