This book is about war, yet it's not a novel about enemies fighting to the death or examining the strategies of battles. This novel is about young boys some as young as eight, fighting, killing and being killed.
The first six chapters follow the lives of two normal happy teenagers attending school, playing sport and learning about girls. This creates a comparative scenario highlighting the difference between a modern teenager and the boys that carry guns and fight in horrendous conditions, their innocence lost forever.
Boy's Own War is a tightly woven, precise narrative that intertwines historical fact with both real and imagined characters. It is a novel that works on many levels, and it is impossible to locate it within any single genre; it is all the more impressive as it blends a considerable amount of informative research with elements of realistic human drama.
It is an important book. Not only does it remind us of the courage and sacrifice of boy warriors who lost their lives in wars but also it reminds us of the significance of those wars and the effect they have had on humankind. By showing the waste and futility of war, and how children become entrenched in horrendous battles losing limbs and lives, Boy's Own War also seeks a more general lasting peace for humankind.
This is an extraordinary story, one that provides insights into the dualities of human nature, especially against a background of war. Generally, parents nurture their children, educate them hoping they will become responsible adults. The parents of the boys in this book lost their children to the ultimate human evil… war.
We are confronted with the potential within all of us for both heroism and cowardice, honesty and deception, altruism and greed; there is, in the intensity of wartime, a heightened awareness of moral dilemmas, choices between good and evil which have eternally confronted humankind.