Burning Nation

22571251

Author: Trent Reedy

Publication: 2015, Arthur A. Levine

Pages: 417

Overall Rating:

Rating for Action:

Quantity of Action:

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: This is book two in the Divided We Fall series and it kicks off with a blast as Danny and his friends find themselves on the front lines trying to beat back a Fed invasion of Idaho.  Their lines get overrun and they are forced to flee and go into hiding.  For a time things seem impossibly bleak until Idaho declares its independence.  They’re soon joined by other states leading to a second civil war and Danny is right in the thick of it, leading a band of insurgents as they carry out strikes on Fed forces in his hometown of Freedom Lake.  But war is a grim and bloody business, and even if Danny survives he will never be the same again.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Reedy put a lot of work into making this story feel realistic in every possible way.  The political scenario that plays out in the background – told through a series of newscasts and social media posts at the end of certain chapters – felt entirely plausible.  If America ever does devolve into a second civil war, this is exactly how it might happen.  And while Danny and his friends probably suffer fewer casualties and wreak more destruction on the Fed than would be likely in real life, the way their unit is organized, the equipment they have to rely on, the allies they discover, and even the torture Danny gets subjected to felt entirely true to life.  It makes the story gritty as hell, and a scary glimpse into our future if we can’t find some way beyond our partisan differences.

What I Liked the Least: While we do get occasional glimpses into the arguments and goals of the US government, this is still a very one-sided story with most of the feds presented as faceless murderers and thugs.  I know Danny has to think like this, he has to see the Fed as monsters in order to kill them, but I really hope that in book three, Reedy can finally find a way to help us, as readers, see this war at least a little bit from the perspective of the Fed soldiers who are fighting on the other side.  Maybe there’s even an opportunity for a companion series here – one where we see the civil war unfold from the perspective of a hapless Fed soldier. 

How Good was the Action? At least as awesome as it was in Divided We Fall.  There are a crap ton of fights and chases in this book – as many as you’d expect in an all-out war – and each one is edge of your seat intense, with bullets flying and adrenaline bleeding off the page at light speed.

How Engaging was the Story?  This is an action novel, no question.  But Reedy goes beyond the action to look at the consequences of war on the lives of those involved.  He forces Danny to confront the horrors of what he’s doing, brings us inside Danny’s head while he’s being tortured, and continues to create real and meaningful relationships between Danny and his friends, all the while weaving in bits and pieces of the political fray surrounding them to help put their small skirmishes into the larger context of the war.  That makes for a deep and engaging read on all fronts.

Overall Assessment:  A powerful follow-up to Reedy’s Divided We Fall, one that forces readers to look the reality of a second Civil War in the face and to live and breathe what it means to go to war.

Profanity: Yes.

Sex: Yes.  It’s not seriously graphic, but more so than in many other YA books.

Violence: Absolutely.  This is a war and Reedy doesn’t try to sugarcoat it in any way.  People get blown up, burned alive, shot, tortured, beaten, and more.  There’s blood and guts and suffering galore on both sides.  That said, it does paint a very realistic picture of war.  Nobody who’s read it is likely to glorify battle as anything other than the brutal mess it really is.

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