What if your country had been at war for your entire life? For your parents' entire lives? For as long as anyone -- even your grandparents -- could remember?
In The Always War, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, this is the reality for Tessa, a 15-year-old who has grown up thinking war is all there is. Between scrubbing floors at her backbreaking job and watching her parents sleep away their lives in depression, Tessa doesn't have much to be hopeful about in life.
But still, something inside of her doesn't want to give up! Something makes her notice things like the beautiful and fragile spiderweb in the dirty lot behind her apartment, and like the look in Gideon Thrall's eyes as he is awarded a medal for heroism in the endless war -- and won't accept it.
This is a story about unlikely friendships, courage, and the little glimmers of hope that reside in us, even when we have no reason to hope. When Tessa finds that her own life and the lives of her two unlikely friends depends on figuring out what is really going on in their dark world, she struggles. She has always been told that she isn't smart, and that she is wasting her time reading old stories about normal people who overcame great odds to become heroes in spirit, not in war. She must find within herself her own talent -- even though she isn't a military or technical genius. And Tessa's talent is linked to the fact that she refuses to give up on people.
At 197 pages, this fast-paced adventure will draw you in and keep you reading until you unwind the mystery of what is really going on in this strange futuristic world. Recommended for 5th and 6th graders, especially those who wonder about war and peace.