Published by Random House Publishing Group on May 12th 2015
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In 1991, ten-year old Ana lives with her parents and baby sister in Croatia’s capital city, blissfully unaware of tensions beginning to rise to the surface. Before long, however, she is unable to miss the Civil War sparking around her as Yugoslavia starts to crumble. While attempting to travel within the country with her family, Ana’s once simple life is thrown into chaos and sets off a chain of events that will lead her through dark, unexpected situations.
“I used to think all languages were ciphers, that once you learned another’s alphabet you could convert foreign words back into your own, something recognizable. But the blood formed a pattern like a map to comprehension and I understood the differences all at once. I understood how one family could end up in the ground and another could be allowed to continue on its way, that the distinction between Serbs and Croats was much vaster than the ways of writing letters.”
Girl at War is completely devourable, in the best way. Nović precisely stacks the novel’s plot so we’re left haunted and wide-eyed in the first 100 pages, learning only half of Ana’s story before giving way to the refuge of her modern-day life in America. But we soon see that physical and emotional safety are two vastly different things, as Ana continues to struggle with her memories a decade later. Her remaining time in Croatia bubbles under the surface and makes the book nearly impossible to put down.
Sara Nović has written an unflinching look at life during war and the endless ripples it leaves in its wake. Girl at War is a debut that makes you thankful to find an author early in their career and thrilled by what they’ll do next.