War Stories

Written by Gordon Korman
Review by Kimberly Cross Teter

Trevor Firestone is a 12-year-old obsessed with World War II video games, and he spends hours blowing up Nazi tanks and gunning down German adversaries. For Trevor, it’s more than just pretend: he idolizes his great-grandfather, a bona fide WWII hero. Trevor savors G.G.’s tales of his exploits as a high school dropout who lied about his age in order to enlist. Now, in 2020, G.G. is the last surviving member of the company that liberated the French town of Sainte-Régine in 1944. The town wants to honor him—Private Jacob Firestone—at the 75th anniversary of victory. G.G. wants Trevor to accompany him. Trevor’s father, a history teacher who loathes the glorification of war, reluctantly agrees, and the three generations set out to retrace G.G.’s steps. During the trip, Trevor’s father becomes alarmed by threatening internet posts claiming Jacob Firestone is not a hero, but something else entirely. G.G. does not explain, but says it’s time to face the past. As they travel, Trevor becomes suspicious that something is amiss.

Korman skillfully employs a dual timeline to bring young Jacob’s wartime experiences into sharp focus. His vivid description of the Normandy invasion captures the stark terror of soldiers scrambling across Omaha Beach, then fighting their way for weeks through the hedgerows on their way to the battle for Sainte-Régine. Even though he’s only 17, Private Firestone makes decisions that will either save lives or cost lives.

In present day Sainte-Régine, G.G. faces the consequences of a past decision, and the novel comes to a satisfying conclusion. War Stories celebrates the love and admiration between generations and the lessons from the past to be shared. This book is classified as a middle-grade novel, but Jacob’s story makes it attractive to older readers as well. This is a highly recommended read.