YA Friday: Veterans Day

Silhouette of a soldier behind an American flag

Veterans Day

Every November 11, the United States celebrates Veterans Day. November 11th was chosen as the date for this special observation because the armistice that ended World War I went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. That war was considered "the war to end all wars" and the armistice was vastly important to the people of Europe and the United States. Until the mid 1950s, November 11 was called "Armistice Day." After World War II and the Korean war, the observation was legally changed to "Veterans Day."

The holiday honors living veterans as well as those who gave their lives in service to their country.The subjects of combat ethics, PTSD, and sexual identity in the military might seem like exceptionally heavy ones for young adult literature…until you remember that enlistment begins squarely in the age range of YA’s target audience. Regardless, these books will resonate with readers of all ages who’ve been touched by PTSD, military families/communities, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or any other realities of living in 21st-century wartime America.

I'll Meet You There book cover

I'll Meet You There, written by Heather Demetrios

Skylar’s post-graduation plans are pretty much set in stone: trading in a life in the trailer she shares with her mom in Creek View, where she has spent all of her 18 years, to study art in San Francisco. But when her old coworker Josh, a U.S. Marine, returns from Afghanistan minus not only his leg but also his party-boy ways, Skylar’s crystal clear view of the future starts to blur. Over the summer, Skylar grows unexpectedly closer to Josh. She thinks she might even love him, and when her mother loses her job, her future only gets more complicated. Can she really leave behind this place and the people who need her?

American Road Trip book coverAmerican Road Trip, written by Patrick Flores-Scott

The past few years have brought many hardships to Teodoro Avila, known as T, and his family. But during his junior year, T develops high hopes for the future. He is enjoying a budding romance, his grades are improving, and his brother, Manny, is finally coming home from deployment in Iraq. But when Manny returns suffering from PTSD, his violent outbursts and bouts of depression are messing up T’s plans to get himself and his family back on the right track. As tensions mount and the school year draws to a close, T’s older sister, Xochitl, decides it’s time for her and her brothers to hit the road. Unbeknownst to T and Manny, she has a plan—but if it doesn't work, there could be devastating consequences.

Price of Duty book cover

Price of Duty, written by Todd Strasser

Wounded in action and a near shoo-in for a prestigious Silver Star, Jake comes home from combat a hero, though silently questioning the purpose and legitimacy of a senseless war that has horribly maimed one of his friends and killed others. But what else is he to do? He comes from a military family; his father is a lieutenant colonel, and his grandfather a retired major general. And once he has received physical therapy, he will be sent back to the combat zone to complete his tour of duty. To refuse the medal and further duty while making public his reservations would be ruinous, reflecting dishonor on his family and making himself a pariah. Will Jake have the courage to take a stand? What price is he willing to pay for honor?

The Summer I Found You book cover

The Summer I Found You, written by Jolene Perry

 Kate Walker thinks that her life is over. She just learned she has diabetes and has been dumped by her boyfriend. Aidan Connelly believed he would spend his career in the military, but barely one year in, he lost his best friend and his arm during a bombing, and he has been sent home. Although both feel lost and broken, maybe all they need to start recovering is someone who understands. So begins a unique romance between two young adults who have almost given up hope of living “normal lives.”

Great Falls book cover

Great Falls, written by Steve Watkins

Two brothers try to flee their demons on a canoe trip. Seventeen-year-old, 6-foot, 210-pound linebacker Shane Dupree is a high school football star waiting for a sports scholarship. His older brother, Jeremy, was just as celebrated: he had ace football skills, was the valedictorian of his class, and is beloved by everyone in their community. Jeremy has other accolades too, including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and after three deployments in Iraq, he's back home with his family. Jeremy came home with more than medals, however. He carries and cleans his 9mm wherever he goes. He sleeps in the basement of his parents' house, away from his wife and daughters. He is clearly suffering, and things take a turn for the worse when he enlists a concussed Shane for a frightening camping excursion with a canoe, a deadly assault rifle, and plenty of beer and whiskey.

The Impossible Knife of Memory book cover

The Impossible Knife of Memory, written by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hayley Kincaid won’t allow herself to remember the happy times in her life, and why should she? After five years on the road with her trucker father, Andy, the two are finally staying put in her grandmother’s old house in upstate New York. But military tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan have left Andy racked by nightmares of gunfire and roadside bombs, and alcohol and drugs are his means of coping. Short, gripping chapters presented in italics appear on occasion and are told from Andy’s point-of-view as the war rages around him. As her father’s PTSD grows worse, and the past is ever present, 17-year-old Hayley assumes the role of parent. But there’s a good part of her life, too: Finn. He’s got dreams for his future, and, as Hayley lets him in to her own scary reality, she tentatively begins to imagine a future of  her own. Unfortunately—or fortunately—memories have a way of catching up, and as each hits, it cuts away at Hayley’s protective bubble like a knife.

Further Reading

Somebody Please Tell Me Who I Am book cover Something Like Normal book cover What I Saw and How I Lied book cover The Things A Brother Knows book cover Purple Heart book cover Moxie book cover