I participate in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week the theme is Top Ten Favourite Books With X Setting. I couldn’t choose between two themes: books set in school, which I posted yesterday, and conflict & war, so I decided to do both. I know it’s not Tuesday. I’ve also done twelve. Shh.
I’ve only fairly recently begun looking for YA books set during World War II. I’ve not read many, but the books I have read are among my absolute favourites. It’s a fascinating topic; I’ve always loved history and I very nearly studied it at university (but switched at the last minute to sociology). I also picked this theme because it shows that YA can tackle important, difficult and complicated topics and be well-written; it’s not simple, or unintelligent, or ‘all the same’.
I picked ‘conflict’ rather than ‘war’ because it’s much broader. Of course, this means I had many more books to choose from, but here’s a selection (although not just YA) I’ve read, should have read, and own but have not yet read. Most are set during WWII, but a couple may surprise you.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I wasn’t going to include The Book Thief. Shocking, I know. It’s because I put it in Top Ten / Books Before Blogging. But how could I not put it here? It’s one of the best books in young adult fiction, so definitely one of the best about war and conflict. 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
Monsters of Men, the last book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, to put it simply, is one long, drawn-out, war with a brilliant ending: uncertainty can be a terrible thing to experience. It can lead to misery, distrust and conflict, but maybe, just maybe, it’ll lead to the best thing that’s ever happened.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I really could have put any dystopian book here, but I thought I’d put the epitome of YA dystopian fiction and dystopian conflict, from the Games themselves to the underlying issues surrounding the Districts.
Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick
I am fascinated by North Korea and this is the perfect book to learn more about it, even if you normally read fiction (dystopian fiction especially). Nothing to Envy follows the enthralling lives of six people who we know eventually defected from North Korea. It‘s an utterly compelling, fascinating, incredible, brilliant read. I hated having to put it down.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Code Name Verity is high up on my ‘to read’ list as very few people I know who’ve read it, did not enjoy it; most adored it. Its sequel, Rose Under Fire, has also been published. I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
I’ve heard this is a much lighter take on a ‘war’ story, ‘a moving tale of post-war friendship, love and books’. I’m intrigued by the history of Guernsey and so I cannot wait to read this.
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
If I could have only picked two books, I would’ve picked The Book Thief and Between Shades of Gray. It’s one of the most important books in young adult fiction today, in my opinion. Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known.
The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock
The Book of Lies is one of my favourite novels, a blend between present day and life under German Occupation during World War II, and also after the allies had won. A wonderful, unforgettable novel about the complexities of truth and lies.
The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
Although you will not discover anything about the Holocaust that you did not already know – it is not meant to serve as a history lesson – for me, it was the first time I’d gotten close to thinking about what it would be like to experience Nazi cruelty first-hand.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
Oryx and Crake is a much quieter novel than others I’ve mentioned here, but no less important. Oryx and Crake is a warning about the destruction of humanity. Set during a type of apocalypse, it tells of science and technology and how they can easily be abused. Conflict is abundant in every section society and between the story’s vivid characters.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Although you could just read this for the writing and world-building alone, it’s a sophisticated and complicated take on the mythology of angels and demons; the conflict between Seraphim and Chimaera.
Maus by Art Spiegelmen
I’ve not read many graphic novels, but I know this to be one of the best, ‘addressing the horror of the Holocaust’. I imagine it’ll be a very upsetting, horrifying and difficult one to read because of the visuals. Even the cover makes me shiver.
And there’s so many more I could include – such as every dystopian book – but here’s some honourable mentions: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Divergent, Sarah’s Key, A World Between Us, Legend, Slaughterhouse-Five, Warpaint, The Aftermath, Catch-22, Number the Stars, A Game of Thrones, World War Z, The Kite Runner, How I Live Now, War Horse, Tomorrow When the War Began.
What are your favourite books about war and conflict?