Thursday, July 30, 2009

Enchanting Review: Ghosts of War (The True Story of a 19 yr old GI)

YA Biography/non-fiction
ISBN #978-0-06-166468-7
310 pages
Hardcover--Available now

Rating: 5 enchantments

Ryan Smithson is a hero. Not the kind of hero that you read about in the news, but the kind of hero that matters. He was sixteen when the planes hit the Twin Towers. Although he didn’t realize it at the time, the events of September 11, 2001 would have a profound and life changing effect on him. He decided to serve in the Army Reserves after graduation. This book is the story of his year of service in Iraq.

The reader follows Ryan as he starts his training as an eager teenager. During basic training he describes being broken down by his sergeants, and then built back up as a soldier. This transformation is juxtaposed with stories from his year of service.

The author notes indicate that the book actually grew out of a writing assignment for a college class that Ryan took upon his return. The instructor asked the class to write about something that they have seen destroyed. The resulting vignette was one of the most moving passages I have ever read. Titled “The House that Achmed Built,” it starts with a dangerous mission. Ryan and his team must deliver supplies into a town that is plagued by insurgents. During the mission, the convoy is ambushed. Ryan talks about how his training takes over, and because of it, he and his team survive. Throughout the chapter, Ryan juxtaposes his version of a children’s nursery rhyme. I couldn’t help but think how appropriate a nursery rhyme was, since so many of the soldiers were still so young themselves, not to mention the ages of the insurgents.

I had the privilege of reading this book over the 4th of July. I realized that even though I have always appreciated the sacrifices made by those who serve, I can never truly understand it the way Ryan Smithson does. This book should be read by any teen who is considering service, and by anyone who has a loved one in the armed forces. The stories he tells are funny, scary, thrilling, sad and exciting. The reader never knows which emotion Mr. Smithson is going to play on next. This was a deeply moving book, and I look forward to reading more from Mr. Smithson in the future.

Mr. Smithson currently lives in upstate New York with his wife.

Lisa Runion
Enchanting Reviews
July 2009

No comments:

Post a Comment