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When I Was a Soldier Paperback – January 23, 2007
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From the instant New York Times bestselling author of blockbuster thrillers "In a Dark, Dark Wood" and "The Woman in Cabin 10" comes Ruth Ware’s chilling new novel, "The Lying Game." See more
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From School Library Journal
Grade 9 Up–In this compelling memoir, Zenatti, first among her group of friends to be called for compulsory military service, chronicles two years of growing up in the Israeli army between 1988 and 1990. With teen self-absorption, she describes the end of her high school years, her initial excitement with the uniform and gun, and grueling training. At first overwrought and pretentious, her voice matures as she continues her course, suffers an anxiety attack, and is posted to a security listening post. As Zenatti grows away from her old friends and a former boyfriend, she becomes more aware and open to the ideas, interests, and needs of others–even, eventually, to the Palestinians who share her country. It is true, as adults told her, "The army changes everything." Although immersed in the country and the experience at the time, Zenatti retains her outsider perspective. French by origin, she and her family emigrated to Beersheva when she was 13, where she learned Hebrew. Her love of language shines through, and the translation, though undeniably British, is smooth. Journal entries in italics are interspersed with the present-tense narrative. This is a fascinating glimpse of a different part of the world and a different kind of experience. Older readers, facing the end of high school themselves, will be drawn to this description of the interim between childhood and adulthood that is a universal Israeli experience.–Kathleen Isaacs, formerly at Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
Gr. 8-11. For immigrant Valerie, 18, the required two-year Israeli army service is an exciting rite of passage. She gets to leave home, be considered equal to boys, and feel like a real citizen. The military training fascinates her, even if she misses her bitchy best friends ("friends and rivals forever"), and she is haunted by memories of the boyfriend who dumped her. Zenatti's fast, wry, present-tense memoir, translated from the French, begins like a contemporary YA novel: "What will I wear?" is the important question for Valerie's farewell party. But later, when Valerie confronts the politics and propaganda, she has a breakdown: "Who is the enemy?" she wonders. "Why am I fighting?" Zenatti's family immigrated to Israel from France when Valerie was 13 (she now lives in Paris), and much of the memoir's power is in the writer's dual perspective as newcomer and participant. Valerie is entranced by contemporary Israeli diversity and intellectual life, even as she sees Palestinian "poverty, sadness, hatred." There is no heavy message. Readers will be swept into Valerie's military experience only to realize she can't justify why she is there. The honest conflict about haunting issues in daily life is prime teen material, and readers on all sides of the war-peace continuum, here and there, will find much to talk about. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top customer reviews
When our grade was assigned to read a nonfiction book, I groaned. The class then went to the library to pick out, either a biography, an autobiography, or a memoir. I searched and searched for a book that didn't look too boring, but all were things like Jane Arre or something else without a plot. I was on the verge of despair, when I saw a book in the corner of the room that didn't have soft watercolor pictures of ladies in frilly hoop skirts and a scrawling title, but that had a picture of a young girl in an army uniform on it with the title When I Was A Soldier. Ever since I was little, I've always wondered what it would be like to be a soldier and for many years I had the dream of one day joining the army and being a hero that girls everywhere would look up to and say that girls could do anything. Now that I've grown out of that aspiration, the feminist part of me, and the interest in the army remains, so I picked up the book. The back cover had a passage form the book on it that mirrored perfectly my views; "Why should I hide the fact? I'm fascinated by my submachine gun. They're instruments of death and we're finding them easier and easier to handle. We don't think for a moment that we might that for real someday. But at the same time, it's the ultimate sign that we really are soldiers, on completely equal terms with the boys. And it makes me feel proud." It's perfect. I checked out the book and put it in my locker to take home, and eventually forgot about it. That night I remembered it and started reading. I couldn't stop.
This book is a passage in Valerie Zenatti's life that illiterates the duties, drawbacks, and rewards of being in the Israeli army. She writes about the average soldier in a peaceful base far away from any fighting. You wouldn't expect this; I was expecting wondrous heroics and endless action. But I was wrong. Valerie describes her two years in the army with a sense that she is living through it at that very time, and not years later. She vividly describes the conditions at her bases and her tasks with the emotions of a growing teen-ager. She writes about her anger and sorrow on losing friends and lovers, and her wishes for the future on gaining new ones. I was very impressed by this book and how it was written. I highly recommend this to young adults and those who have a bad stereotype of nonfiction books. This will change how you look at the genre. I truly intend to read more nonfiction books in the future.