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Summary and book reviews of Youngblood by Matt Gallagher

Youngblood

by Matt Gallagher

Youngblood
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2016, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky

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About this Book

Book Summary

Jarhead meets Redeployment in a suspenseful and smart fiction debut that has been called "thrilling, tragic, and darkly funny" by National Book Award-winning author Phil Klay.

The US military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly-minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it's happening - through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sergeant Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.

As Iraq plunges back into chaos and bloodshed and Chambers's influence over the men grows stronger, Jack becomes obsessed with a strange, tragic tale of reckless love between a lost American soldier and Rana, a local sheikh's daughter. In search of the truth and buoyed by the knowledge that what he finds may implicate Sergeant Chambers, Jack seeks answers from the enigmatic Rana, and soon their fates become intertwined. Determined to secure a better future for Rana and a legitimate and lasting peace for her country, Jack will defy American command, putting his own future in grave peril.

Pulling readers into the captivating immediacy of a conflict that can shift from drudgery to devastation at any moment, Youngblood provides startling new dimension to both the moral complexity of war and its psychological toll.

1

The alarm sounded through the still of the outpost. If I'd been dreaming, I'd already forgotten what about. I turned off the alarm and hopped down from the top bunk. It was another day. We'd been in-country five months, and hadn't even been shot at yet.

"Yo," I said. "The Suck awaits." The only response came from an industrial fan whirring in a dark corner. None of the bodies in the other beds bothered to move. As deceitful as time could be in a room without windows, my sergeants always seemed to know when they had another twenty minutes.

I shook out my boots to make sure a scorpion hadn't crept into them during the night. It hadn't happened to anyone yet, but still, there were stories. After knotting the laces and pulling on my fleece top, I walked through the dim and opened the door to the hallway. The platoon's interpreter was waiting there under a yellow ceiling panel, holding two cups of coffee. He was just a blurry shadow for a few...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Take a look at the epigraph, Stephen Crane's "In the Desert." Why do you think the author chose to open the book with this poem? How does it set the tone? Discuss how the poem affected you before you began the story, and how your understanding and appreciation of it have changed since finishing the novel.
  2. On pages 78 and 79, the American soldiers gather in the compound to witness a fight between a camel spider and a scorpion. Watching his soldiers, Lieutenant Porter thinks "I looked around and didn't see jaded boredom anymore but something else" (p. 77). What is it that Porter sees? Why do you think he chooses not to stop the fight?
  3. Consider the fight between the scorpion and the spider. What can you say about this moment in ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Whatever your feelings are about the Iraq war, Gallagher presents a lot to think about and see from the perspective of one brave man just trying to make it through to the end of the occupation. As more and more literature inspired by the Iraq War emerges, Youngblood will remain one of the leading lights in helping us see more of what happened in those years.   (Reviewed by Rory L. Aronsky).

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Starred Review. Gallagher's riveting combination of gritty military jargon, sharply drawn characters, and suspenseful story line adds up to one of the best modern war novels since Tim O'Brien's Vietnam classic, The Things They Carried (1990). Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. A complex tale about the Iraq War, intrigue, love, and survival...Gallagher subtly weaves throughout this excellent, brutal tale intrigue, a mystery, and two compelling love stories … A fresh twist on the Iraq War novel adds depth to this burgeoning genre.

Author Blurb Richard Ford
A flat-out great novel about the Iraq war and about much, much more. It's truthful, urgent, grave and darkly funny. Everyone should read it.

Author Blurb Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried
Yes, the people and events in this fine novel are certainly 'tangled up' with war, as the author puts it on page one,but it is the same sort of entanglement that Lord Jim has with the ocean, or the sort of entanglement that Huck Finn has with the river.

Author Blurb Phil Klay, New York Times bestselling author of Redeployment
Thrilling, tragic, and darkly funny, Matt Gallagher's Youngblood is a brilliant portrait of command in the modern, morally bruising battlefield.

Author Blurb Ben Fountain, New York Times bestselling author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Not only does Youngblood rank among the very best books of our seemingly endless Iraq war, it's one of the best novels I've ever read of war, period.

Author Blurb Phil Klay, New York Times bestselling author of Redeployment
Thrilling, tragic, and darkly funny, Matt Gallagher's Youngblood is a brilliant portrait of command in the modern, morally bruising battlefield

Author Blurb Ben Fountain, New York Times bestselling author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Not only does Youngblood rank among the very best books of our seemingly endless Iraq war, it's one of the best novels I've ever read of war, period.

Author Blurb Claire Vaye Watkins, award-winning author of Gold Fame Citrus
This muscular novel cements Gallagher's role as our essential biographer of the forever war.

Author Blurb Victor LaValle, author of The Devil in Silver
In 1926 Ernest Hemingway's first novel, The Sun Also Rises, portrayed the generation of men and women living in the wake of World War I, an unflinching portrait of their weaknesses and strengths...Youngblood is so good I couldn't help but think of old Hemingway's debut. Let this novel serve as your introduction to a bold, brilliant talent.

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Beyond the Book

What's That Mess in the Mess Hall?

"The chow hall was a big white magnet north of the shopping gulch, a massive canopy that seemed to hover over the pale sands. Part circus tent, part martial pretense, it was ringed by blast walls and protected by counterbattery radar. It could serve over a thousand soldiers at a time and up to fifteen thousand a day, not including the ones who gorged at the nearby fast-food shacks." – From Youngblood by Matt Gallagher

Nose around on Google enough when looking for information about U.S. Army mess halls (although the term these days is dining facility), and you'll soon find a 2007 Army pamphlet called "Operating Procedures for the Army Food Program." For this civilian, the jargon within, and the acronyms, and the dozens upon ...

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If you liked Youngblood, try these:

  • Redeployment jacket

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    Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned.

  • The Watch jacket

    The Watch

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    Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya's heartbreaking and haunting novel, The Watch, takes a timeless tragedy and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan, giving us a gripping tour through the reality of this very contemporary conflict, and our most powerful expression to date of the nature and futility of war.

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