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Age 14 Hardcover – October 19, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Based on historical facts, this tale of an underage soldier captures the initial excitement and ultimate disillusionment of men, young and old, fighting at the front. Spillebeen's choice to reveal Patrick's fate in the first chapter may lessen the suspense, but readers will be emotionally prepared to bear the story's conclusion. Unadorned prose expresses unsettling truths in straightforward, clear terms."--Publishers Weekly

"Young adults who have read Kipling’s Choice (BCCB 6/05) will recognize that Spillebeen is returning to a prior technique: a fact-based fictionalization of World War I events…While many novelists pack an anti-war message into their work, none surpasses Spillebeen for ripping the glamour and heroics out of the battlefield."--Bulletin

About the Author

Geert Spillebeen lives in Izegem, Belgium, where he is a journalist and radio presenter. This is his first novel published in the United States.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition (October 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547053428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547053424
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,733,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Unity Dienes on September 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I think a lot of parents would not want their 14 year old (or younger) to read this book. I was hoping this would be a good selection for my son, who loves military books, to learn a little about the time period. The length, difficulty, title, and cover picture, not to mention that it appears to be published by a children's division of the publisher, made me think it was a kids' book, probably for kids around age 14. Yikes! Not really! At least, not for us!

I was startled early in the book by a scene of pederasty that immediately put me on guard and made me wonder if anything in the book would make it worth even keeping it. The pedophile in question is also a highly offensive character in that (other than that he rapes boys) his biggest flaw seems to be his obesity. "Fatso" (I kid you not; that's his nickname) is repulsive, and the author seems to relish describing his disgusting rolls of fat. Wonderful; as if we needed to encourage children to nurture a prejudice against heavy people.

Then, not much farther into the book, the 12-year-old hero is awakened in his bed to find the buxom farm hand Moira half-naked and straddling him, "moaning" with her "hot breath" in his ear. The scene doesn't, thankfully, play out as it might have but I think that some parents may choose to avoid such erotic scenes in their children's historical fiction!

Next to objections like these, some of my other problems with the book---like implausibility (e.g. he writes a letter home with perfect grammar and nearly perfect spelling, in spite of being a 12-year-old dropout from an illiterate family) or silly word choices (one point the translator had me rolling my eyes when she described a place where the boy used to "romp")---seem less important.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Hervian Rose on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I chose this book because read a lot of historical novels with our children to help flesh out their understanding and recall of historical facts.
It is a story about a very underage Irish boy who works his way into the army by changing identities with his older brother. As far as I can guess, the underage part of the plot was to make it appeal to young readers. I have only girls, and it can't imagine this book appealing to them. I'd like to hear about it from a boy perspective.
The good: It has couple of pages worth of encyclopedia-type history, and reading it might make names, dates, etc, stick a little better.
The bad: The characters are flat and the plot is simple and predictable with apparent encyclopedia excerpts instead of sub-plots. There is some sexual content that seems extremely out of place and inappropriate for the targeted reader level.
The summary - we won't be using this one for our girls.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By L.C. Evans VINE VOICE on October 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although the book was based on the true story of a fourteen-year-old Irish lad lying about his age and going off to war, the authors didn't deliver on what could have been a fascinating tale about a child experiencing the horrors of World War I. The characters, including the main character, are not well-drawn. The book seems to be written in a simple style for readers younger than twelve and yet the subject matter should be rated R. There is not only a pedophile whom the authors attempt to make more disgusting by describing him as fat, but a farm girl who climbs into bed with the then twelve-year-old main character with the idea of seducing him. The letter the boy wrote home didn't seem to fit at all with his background. The dialogue didn't seem right for the time or place and the whole weak storyline seemed contrived. This book didn't work for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ravenskya VINE VOICE on December 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Hmmm... one would think that with the book being titled "Age 14" that it should be geared toward the 14 year old crew. I'll be honest; I'm not sure who this is geared toward. I can't imagine the younger the 14 crew reading this and getting much out of it due to the sheer vagueness and boredom that it would invoke. Also many parents will have an issue with the two scenes containing sexuality in them. One involves a fat, filthy man attempting to sodomize a young boy but being foiled and the other involves a farm girl attempting to seduce the 12 year old in disguise. Neither of them is in great detail but the simple fact that they add nothing to the tale makes them feel rather gratuitous.

I was more concerned with what I perceived as a severe lack of detail for a historical novel. Sure we follow a child who lies about his age to join the military - but as readers we watch from a distance and learn very little about daily life in that time period or other worldwide events. There is some passing mention of a few minor events leading up to the war but very little will be learned as far as how the world worked in those times. Huge opportunities were left on the table. In the end the reader is left with a rather ho-hum version of a kid running away, lying about his age and joining the army. We never really get to know him or care about him. We know very little about his family other then there are a lot of them and not much money to go around.

I personally believe that one of the weakest aspects of this book is letting the reader know in the first few sentences that our "real" main character dies. Right off as a reader you've already chalked the kid up as a loss so you never emotionally invest in him (not that there is much here to invest in).
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