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That Mad Game

School Library Journal

These essays, all documenting the effects of war on young people, are not for the faint of heart, but mature readers will be rewarded by a compelling and often uplifting anthology. And while these accounts of survival all share a common thread of finding a place in displacement, That Mad Game surprises with its variety. In the remarkable “Across the River,” Nikolina Kulidzan describes a chance encounter during a visit to her hometown of Mostar, Bosnia. In lovely prose, she shows that contentment, however fleeting, can be found in the former Yugoslavia. Contrast this with the stark “Hand-Me-Down War Stories,” in which Jerry Mathes recounts in harsh detail the ways Vietnam shaped his father: “He became intimate with suffering.” His use of reverse chronological order effectively illustrates his dawning realization of the many ways in which his father’s PTSD affected his family. The diversity seen in these two stories runs through the collection as a whole, and when coupled with the short length of most of the selections, the weighty subject matter is easier to digest. From Taliban-controlled Kabul to a Japanese internment camp in northern California, from a teen girl’s “soundtrack of war” in Beirut to a young man’s long walk across much of Africa, the startling stories make for rough going at times. But the humor, beauty, and humanity shining through the darkness are what make this collection a must-have for all libraries serving high school students.
- Sam Bloom, September 15, 2012 

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