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While He Was Away Paperback – May 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up–In the summer before her senior year, while her boyfriend serves in Iraq, Penna tries to stay supportive as she copes with a new job and gets to know her estranged grandmother, a World War II widow. The first-person present-tense narrative, set in small-town Oklahoma, has a surprising and satisfying conclusion.α(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


""Few books have ever given me so many feelings. "- Evie " - Bookish

"" While He Was Away was a very moving, very well written story, and it sucked me in almost from the beginning."-Kreag" - I Devour Books

""I loved that even though [Penna] felt weak, she made herself be strong"- Kassiah" - Fictionators

""...once I opened the book, I did not want to put it down." - Brandi" - Blkosiner's Book Blog

""Schreck's story will tax and strain your emotions, as well as, consume your attention way after the last page"- The Book Whisperer " - The Book Whisperer

""...a subtly hopeful, emotionally moving novel."- Lauren " - 365 Days of Reading

""I did really enjoy[ed] Karen's writing style and realistic portrayal of a young couple dealing with being apart."- Blogger Jessica, Confessions of a Bookaholic" - Confessions of a Bookaholic

""... a powerful story about coping with change."- Blogger Marcie, To Read or Not To Read " - To Read or Not To Read

""the relationship between Penna and her mom... was complicated and broken at times, but ultimately very powerful."- Zoe" - In The Next Room

"" Karen Schreck pens a poignant and inspiring story of love and war, trials and tribulations, and finding oneself."-Blogger Susan, A Soul Unsung " - A Soul Unsung

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140226402X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1402264023
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,184,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Juhina & Farah @ Maji Bookshelf on May 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
I had hopes that While He Was Away would be an eye opening, emotional experience for me, but unfortunately, it was not that. I understood it was about a girl's boyfriend being drafted and going off to Iraq, and the struggles she will be facing once he was gone. However, throughout the whole book I did not feel any emotional connection towards Penna. I felt like there were too many things going on in the book. Unnecessary things that do not have any relation to the main plot of the book but were added to just increase the page count. Penna needing so much to look for her long lost grandmother all of a sudden raised a lot of question marks for me. Her weird relationship with her mother and blaming her for everything just ticked me off. I felt like she was the most ungrateful child ever! Even though her mother sacrificed SO MUCH for her, she still treated her like dirt and that totally rubbed me the wrong way.
Then we've got her relationship with David's fallen out best friend Ravi. After David left to Iraq, Penna had only a handful of encounters with him but somehow the idea of more kept on wedging in to the plot. I was just so confused on WHY would Penna even need to assure herself multiple times that he is just David's friend. Even though all they ever did was exchange a few awkward conversations. Yes, the plot could have gone in that direction, but with barely anything happening and for her to feel that way was just absurd.
To be honest, what really made me so disconnected with all the characters was a scene that happened with David and Penna. They went on a website to play this game where the target was an arabic guy, and the point of the game was to shoot red paintballs so they will splatter all over him (as if he is bleeding).
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hannah @ Paperback Treasures on May 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
I was so, so excited to read While He Was Away - I love the whole idea, and it looked right up my alley. I hate when I'm disappointed by a book I had such high hopes for, but sadly, that's the case with While He Was Away. I wouldn't say it's a bad book, but it didn't live up to my expectations.

While He Was Away turned out to be a little different from what I'd expected. I'm not sure why - maybe because of the last sentence of the description - but I thought it would be about the time when David comes back, about how war changed him, that kind of thing. Rereading the description, I know that's my fault, since it's clear it's actually about how David leaves and what happens immediately after he leaves, but still, I ended up a little disappointed, seeing how little the "war changed him" aspect is addressed.

But first, the postive: Family turns out to play a much more important part in the story than you could tell from the description, and I really liked that aspect. I don't want to spoil anything, but there's some family drama that relates to Penna's current situation. I liked reading about Penna's grandmother and her struggle with Alzheimer's, as well as how her family's past influences Penna now. That was probably my favorite part of the novel.

What I didn't like, though, are the characters. I started out disliking Penna because she's so dependent on her boyfriend. I know, it's got to be hard, knowing her boyfriend is in danger, but how much of her life revolves around him still bugged me. Even before David leaves for Iraq, at which point it would be understandable, David is the most important thing in her life - she has no real girlfriends, and she does art but that isn't mentioned all that much early on.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Evie Seo TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 11, 2012
Format: Paperback
When I first heard about this book, I was hesitant to pick it up. Mainly because of its premise. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read a novel about teenage sweethearts separated by war. I admit, I was afraid that it would be either cheesy or over-dramatic, and I definitely didn't need another Hurt Locker. But then the reviews started pouring in, and they were all so gushy and enthusiastic, I knew I had to give this book a chance. And guys, I am so happy that I did! This book proved to be nothing short of brilliant. Absolutely and utterly amazing! Everything, from the poignant narrative voice, to the convincing characters and engaging plot, is excellent. It took me less than a day to devour it, and every moment I spent reading it was filled with emotions. In tender and almost poetic prose, Schreck captures not only the sweetness, anticipation and hopefulness of young love, but also angst, uncertainty and pain that comes from long-term separation. And she does it in a way that really pulls on your heart strings.

The premise of this book is very simple. A boy, a girl, first-love, and the war in Iraq. David signed up for the military service before Penna moved to Killdeer, but even if he could change his mind later, he probably wouldn't. It's something he wants/needs to do - for himself, for his family, for the country. He's scared, but also proud. He's a good kid, and although Penna's far from happy to see him go, she understands how much it means to him. And she promised him she'll wait for him as long as it takes. They will write letters and frequently call each other, and she will support him all the way through it. But that's the thing about life... Things don't always go as planned. Stuff happens. People change, bonds weaken, and fear and doubt slowly take over.
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