Book Review: Youngblood, by Matt Gallagher

This review originally ran in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

This novel by a former Army captain brings a fresh perspective on the war in Iraq and explores the moral ambiguities of war and leadership.

In the opening pages of Youngblood, Lieutenant Jack Porter reflects on his time in Iraq and the challenges of explaining his experiences to those who weren't there. "What was it like? Hell if I know. But next time someone asks.... I'll answer crooked, and I'll answer long. And when they get confused or angry, I'll smile. Finally, I'll think. Someone who understands." What unfolds in the following pages of Matt Gallagher's debut novel is an exquisite story that perfectly reflects that crooked, long, confusing, angering explanation: the story of a young officer trying to maintain a sense of sanity and control in the face of a situation that defies both.

With the United States military preparing to withdraw from Iraq, Porter and his men have shifted from thinking of home as a place they've left to a place they're looking forward to returning to. But before they are redeployed, Sergeant Daniel Chambers is assigned to their unit--bringing with him an aggressive style born of three past tours and a host of secrets. As Porter is drawn into the stories about Chambers's dark past, he begins to question everything he thought he knew and understood about the war, his place in it and himself.

Gallagher draws on his experience as a former U.S. Army captain--which he wrote about in his war memoir, Kaboom--to offer a fresh perspective on the war in Iraq. Youngblood explores the moral ambiguities of war as well as the specific trials of what it means to be a leader in a place and time that defies logic and law.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this title for review.

Youngblood | Matt Gallagher | Atria Books | Hardcover | February 2016 | Buy from an independent bookstore near you

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