Customer Reviews: Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI
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on April 21, 2009
After reading Ghosts of war, I learned what my time in Iraq was about and what it ment to others. I have new perspective about what it means to be young and tossed into war. I recommend this book to anyone, young or old, that wants to know about this war and what it is to be a soldier!
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on October 15, 2009
My husband came up to me one day and told me that his buddy Smithson that he went to Iraq with was writing a book about their time there and that he was going to be in it. He was like a little kid at Christmas. My husband bought it the day before it was released. When he finished reading it he told me he wanted me to read it. So I did. He never told me details about anything that happened while he was over there. There were things in the book I never knew happened. And, even though it scares me to think about what he went through, reading it made me realize the good he was doing. Ghosts of War is one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. I highly recommend it. Please read it. It'll touch your heart.

Sandi Zerega
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on May 9, 2009
Many first-person accounts of war are too intense (or too profanity-laden) to suggest to younger high school readers. Not that war isn't intense and profane, but Smithson's book finds a middle ground; one that allows the reader to feel the truth of being in Iraq, without presenting it too brutally for readers in their mid-teens. Smithson also captures the sometimes boring, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes heart-wrenching bits and pieces of being in a small cog in a big machine, in a country where some of the people want to kill you. His even handed, caring and yet truthful voice (which does come forth with four letter words from time to time)transported me from my comfy sofa to his hot barracks, and frightening daily life, and gave me more than just a glimpse at what it's like to serve one's country in a difficult time.
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I'm a high school librarian in Michigan, and I ordered this book after just a quick glance at its cover in a HarperCollins advertisement (From the cover, it seemed like something that might appeal to my school's male readers, a population I struggle to reach). Having heard nothing nothing about the book or its author, I expected nothing - but I've turned the last page a changed person. What's changed? My views about the war in Iraq and more specifically the kids - kids like Ryan Smithson - that fought, are fighting, that war. I'm so much more aware of and grateful for their sacrifice!

Not only was I surprised by my reaction to Ghosts of War, I was also surpised by the writing, for Smithson is a really good writer! If I'm able to finish them at all, war memoirs generally leave me feeling bogged down and confused as a reader, but Ryan Smithson writes about war and its operation so as to make it truly interesting and understandable. His writing is also honest - emotionally honest - and more than one chapter brought on those slowly-trickling-down-the-cheeks readers' tears.

It appears that HarperCollins is marketing this as a Young Adult book. While it is certainly a title I will recommend with enthusiasm to my school's teen readers, (grades nine and up) it's also something that I hope adults will pick up, too. As an avid reader and a librarian, I consider this among the best books of the year!
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on April 21, 2009
Amongst the multitude of books about the war in Iraq, Ghosts of War stands out by capturing the war as seen and experienced by 19 year old Army Reservist and laying it out without pretense or judgment. In a war that's seen more media attention than any other conflict in American history, very little has been written directly for the youth growing up during it, and Ghosts of War bridges that gap and provides an American teenage perspective from high school to 9/11 to enlistment and ultimately a year in Iraq. This book should be required reading in high schools and colleges everywhere.
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on January 31, 2010
First of all, I suggest this book to anybody who is currently serving in the National Guard or Reserves, you'll really be able to relate to it. Even if you're Active Duty, and especially if you've been deployed. I couldn't put the book down. I could relate in almost every way possible when Ryan went through the phases of Basic Training, it brought back good memories and made me laugh. It was difficult reading the parts about where he wrote home, I just think of all the other soldiers overseas right now. I also could relate to the book because Smithson is from a town near where I live, so all of the places he named, I knew where they were, so it gave me a really good picture. I finished the book in two days, and I suggest this book to anybody. I don't think it used profanity too much, this is the military, that was Iraq, it paints a good picture of his exact feelings and makes you feel like you're there in the moment. I give this book 5 stars, and I will read it again.
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on September 16, 2009
I started reading this book on September 11th. Although I have read many books about the wars in the Middle East, and even written one myself, this book was truly unique. It touched my heart from page one and didn't stop, even after I put the book down. This book is an absolute must read for our youth, families of the military, and EVERY American.
Bravo Ryan Smithson!
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VINE VOICEon December 20, 2009
Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-Year-Old GI, by Ryan Smithson

Not often does a book leave me speechless, but the difficult subject and beautiful writing in "Ghosts of War" did. Ryan Smithson was 19 when he was deployed to Iraq as a member of the Army Reserves. He tells the story of his platoon and so many like it overseas, the ones who are working to rebuild the country and make it safe for other troops and citizens, the ones who interact with villagers and the poorer people of Iraq. Not the ones who are busting down doors, searching for weapons caches or other types of activities that make the news. Smithson and his fellow soldiers are the unsung heroes of the war.

Smithson writes a moving memoir, that starts with his reaction to September 11, 2001, and his decision to join the Army Reserves, to his year long deployment overseas. The book ends with his return home and the difficulty in adjusting to life again, after living in a combat zone, and how he used writing as therapy for PTSD. The bulk of the book is about his year in Iraq, a year in which he saw the human side of war. Many of the most moving parts of the book are when he describes encounters with Iraqi children, who were almost pathetically grateful for something as simple as clean water. "Ghosts of War" is also a power emotional and mental journey for both the author and the reader, as Smithson ponders what freedom really means, what is faith - questions that are answered during training, missions, and reflection.

I just can't say enough about this book. I've always been against the war, but it was a general feeling. Reading "Ghosts of War" made me think about the individual soldiers, people who joined the armed forces because they want to do something, they want to protect American freedom. A particularly enlightening part for me came near the end, when Smithson went to a high school with another recruiter. On the way to the high school, the other recruiter told Smithson that the kids they were about to see wouldn't really care to hear them, wouldn't listen - they'd think he was just one more brainwashed grunt. I know I felt that way when I listened to recruiters in high school; but as I said, now my opinion is very different. I will now appreciate and thank the soldiers I see. Thank you for opening my eyes.

"Ghosts of War" is an excellent book for adults or young adults, especially teenagers who are considering joining the armed forces. Smithson's memoir gives an accurate picture of army life, from basic training to deployment and back, that may answer questions they didn't know they had. It's also a great book to open discussion between parents and their children, about the war, about the army. I had my own father look at it, as he had been in the Reserves during Vietnam, and the book prompted many questions for me to ask him.

The writing is moving and will suck you in; I didn't want to put it down once I started. Some of the experiences related left me tearing up, and some had me cracking up with laughter. Overall, a wonderful book.

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on July 30, 2009
YA Biography/non-fiction

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
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on September 7, 2012
"Ghosts of War" tells the story of a typical U.S. Army reservist deployed to the Middle East. While the story lacks boom-boom excitement, this is due to the fact that the story is an autobiographical account of his experiences "over there." Not everyone in Iraq or Afghanistan gets shot or injured. Nonetheless, all are deeply affected by the experience, and it shows in the book, which is worth the read. Anyone interested in another account of a G.I.'s experiences can read "War Year" by Joe Haldeman - a semi-autobiographical account of his year in Vietnam - which is perhaps the best "true" account of war I've ever read. I even teach "War Year" in my English classes (we also use "Ghosts of War").
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