Author: Tanita S. Davis
ISBN: 978-0375-85714-0
Publisher: Knoph Books for Young Readers

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Mare’s War is Tanita S. Davis’s second YA novel.  It is a tragic-comedy and it will make you laugh and it will make you cry. Her dialogues are so entertaining that you just can't help falling in love with the characters.

“She was inspired to write Mare’s War while researching her family’s history.

She was poking through military information about her grandmother and she discovered an America she’d never seen. After slavery and the Harlem Renaissance, there’s a jump in the history we learn at school to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X.

What happened before the mighty river that was the civil rights movement is that little streams started trickling. She never found out about her grandmother, but she found others like her. This is a story of their time.”

Mare’s War is also the story of bonding between two sisters and their wacky grandmother. Against their will, Octavia and Tali Boylen are on a road trip to a secret destination with their off -the- wall grandma Mare. Sibling rivalry is hilarious as contrasted to their grandmother’s tale which is very sad. With an iron but gentle grip, Grandma knows how to tame the sisters and win their hearts. In an alternating fashion, the author tells the present day tale and the long ago history of Mare’s time in the segregated deep South and in the army. The postcards to their family and friends that precede some of the chapters keep us abreast of the girls improving feelings towards their grandma.

Mare and her little sister were apparently abused by her drunk mother’s boyfriend and Mare sought ways to save her sister and herself from this brutish man. Her mother sends her sister to live with a relative away from their home but Mare is supposed to stay around and help her mom. But, when she saw that the army was recruiting,  she lied about her age, her being all but seventeen and the enlisting age 21, she filled up her application and without telling her mom, ran away to boot camp. 

She trained hard because she did not want to be sent back home. She describes her life in the Women’s Army Corp in a strong and vivid language:

“I am not scared of nothin’ now. I got blisters on my heels, my hands is cut up, my shoulders are sore from marching with a pack, and I can’t never get enough sleep, but I wouldn’t trade nothin’ for this. Not a thing…. And ain’t nobody gonna make Marey Lee Boylen go home!….”

 It was a time of segregation when African-Americans were not permitted to even drink from the same fountain as the whites in Alabama. But, when their contingent was sent overseas during the war, interracial dating was starting to take place despite the racial incidents the blacks had to contend with. Working hard, traveling under dire conditions with the army made Mare a tough cookie. All the while she was thinking of her mom who never wrote to her and of her little sister who kept her informed about life in Alabama. After the war, she met “somebody” never mentioned by name and had a baby boy, the girls’ father.  

 As the two stories converge, we witness how the girls have grown up and started to appreciate their grandmother and their common history.

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