The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Haddix is a favorite of many YA fiction fans, famous for her series The Shadow Children. The Always War is her latest novel. It’s set in a dystopian future America, where the young characters have spent their entire lives living in a state of war. It’s a war with no known cause, thus: the always war.

If you’re looking for an in-depth story line, intricate character development, or major twists in the plot, this book probably isn’t for you. But if you’re fan of fast paced action and heroism, then you most definitely will enjoy The Always War. The plot is intriguing and action-packed, but I resent the unbelievable characters. It’s difficult to create realistic characters in a fantastical setting, and Haddix doesn’t pull it off. The main character, Tessa, is 15, typical for YA fiction, and old enough to be convincingly adult. But one of the heroes in this dystopian society, Gideon, is younger than that—he’s a war hero at the age of 13. It seems quite a stretch, especially considering that there are plenty of adult characters within the novel. Another unconvincing main character is Dek—she’s about nine years old and trades on the black market, knows how to pilot and perform maintenance on an aircraft, and overall makes you frown at how unrealistic she is. Gideon and Dek should have either been older, or less competent. I can’t think of any way someone nine years old would have had the time to learn how to pilot an aircraft. These characters detracted from a great plot.

The beginning of The Always War is very captivating. Haddix, as usual, jumps right into the story, grabbing your attention. Although not a lot of description is given to the setting, we get the picture. But as the story goes on, it becomes more and more unbelievable, much like the characters. The premise of the war is predictable and reminds me of an all-too-popular movie. There’s a big plot twist and then the origins of the war are finally revealed, but the book’s climax disappoints. Overall, The Always War is subpar when compared to the usual work of Haddix. Younger readers might enjoy it more, but I just wasn’t able to suspend disbelief.


Caleb is 15, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon. He’s the former author of a sports blog that has been featured by several major outlets. He also writes short stories and develops novel ideas whenever possible, and, obviously, loves to read. Follow him on twitter @CalMM15.



6 thoughts on “The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix

  1. Caleb is mistaken… Gideon is supposed to be three years older than Tessa, so he is 18. While Dek is described as looking to be about ten years old, she reveals that she was tapped for the military academy three years ago. We are told that children are sent to the military academy at the age of ten, so she must be thirteen. Obviously, Caleb, you did not read this book very carefully, so your entire review is suspect.
    I agree that it was a bit simplistic, but the message is an important one, and it was an interesting read.

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