' clairefy: Why YA Needs More Military Kids

Why YA Needs More Military Kids

7.04.2016


I struggle sometimes.

I haphazardly make my way through conversations and academics and life in general, seemingly knowledgeable but truly knowing about 5% of what I'm doing. It's a relatable feeling.

One thing I love about books, young adult especially, is that I can often identify myself in the characters' struggles. I can empathize and understand and learn through protagonists' actions by drawing from my own personal experiences.

Well- most of the time, that is.

As an army brat, or child of a soldier, I find different hardships-- adapting to new communities, loved ones' deployments overseas, defining home, adjusting to life on base vs. life off base -- are absent in novels.

In April, the month of the military child, I had an epiphany (yes I get to finally use that word).

^Accurate depiction of me having an epiphany.
Military kids are rather uncommon in young adult fiction. I had already known representation was sparse in everyday events (my sister was sorely disappointed by her school's addressing of Veteran's Day and other federal holidays), but only then did the lack of military children in novels dawn on me.

To date, I have encountered just one YA fiction featuring an army brat- not without faults in the protagonist's depiction. I felt that much of the character's behaviors, such as describing a curling iron as an "instrument of torture" that could alter basic training as a woman styled her hair, perpetuated false stereotypes regarding elements of the lives of military families.

Somewhat understandably, false tropes regarding army brats are widespread among the few titles, television shows, and movies that feature military children. From my own experience, not many non-military families I've met know much about military kids' lifestyles. I often face difficulties attempting to explain to my classmates why I move and what various branches signify. Consider that this year I told one of my new journalism peers that I formerly attended a middle school on a military post. He mistakenly thought this entailed army brats participating in basic training and military drills alongside soldiers (a big NO).


Problematically, misunderstandings like these are widespread, and continue to become more widespread as the few products featuring military families misconstrue military life.

Clearly, readers need more military kids, realistically described and facing realistic struggles, to both further understand the lives of army brats and other children and connect to these struggles. I want to read about a heroine who moves every couple years. I want her to adjust to her new school and flourish in her new community beyond the 'shy-new-girl-at-school-meets-boyfriend' trope. I want to know how she feels when a loved one deploys overseas; I want her to experience the simultaneous happiness and anxiety approaching a major transition; I want her to interact with other military kids and learn from their experiences; I want her to visit the Commissary and her local Exchange and scan her ID at checkout; I want her to make memories on and off post.

I want a story that truly encapsulates the trials and tribulations of military families. 

Have you read any YA books featuring a military child?

31 comments :

  1. Great post topic! I've read two books of the top of my head that feature military in some way, though whether they fit the exact requirement of the army experience you're referring to in this post, I'm not sure. There's I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios, which deals more with military aftermath, and Come Back To Me by Mila Gray, which deals more with being the girlfriend of someone in the military, but has POV from both sides.

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    1. Thank you so much! I haven't read either of those books, so I'll have to look into them! I'm happy to read both and see the portrayal of military families.

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  2. This is really interesting. I only have read one book with military kids, but it's a dystopian so idk if it's really count? It's Legend by Marie Lu. (June's brother is in the military, so does June). I have a friend, and his parents are both in the military so they're kind of absent. But I guess that's why I'm really curious about the military life. How does the children handle the fact that their parents could be deployed anytime? How's life? And so on. I think it's interesting to read and it'll help shattering the stereotypes! :D

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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    1. Thanks, Tasya! I would say if the story realistically describes military families, despite the genre, it counts! I haven't read Legend, though, so I'll have to read it for myself:) Deployment is a difficult subject for sure-- my dad has deployed overseas several times -- but I think it is very necessary to address topics like these in books to broaden widespread understanding of military life!

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  3. I think the only book I've read with a military kid is All Fall Down but it doesn't really focus on it at all... I feel like diversity representation in YA has been a big topic the last few years, but I also personally really want accurate portrayals of different lifestyles too in YA. Like for you, army base life. Or for me, I've never read a book with an accurate portrayal of my sport. (I've actually only read one or two books that include it and both were terrible and not researched at all) Hopefully you'll find a book like this someday.

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    1. Thanks, Tamara. The only book with a military child I have read, that I was mentioning above, is All Fall Down. I agree that different lifestyles ought to also be considered in adding diversity to YA. I've encountered difficulties with the portrayal of my sports, too (track and cross country). I hope in the future more books will accurately portray an array of diverse topics!

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  4. I'm incredibly glad that you're back, Claire!:) And beautiful post as well. To be honest, I never knew what an army brat was until you mentioned it. And I've never read a book that featured such. But I completely understand you, and it really would have been amazing to have a character you can identify yourself with -- someone whose conflicts and pain resonate to you as close as home. They really should put this in YA, since I don't often see it much in the books that I've read.

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    1. Thanks Jillian! I'm really happy to be back. It's alright-- not many people have heard of the term before:) I'm glad you are open to pushing this concept in YA, and I think it is incredibly important to find books with characters whom you can resonate with and relate to.

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  5. This post was so interesting! I always forget the lack of military kids in YA books. Come to think of it, I can't think of a single book that features one. I hope as YA becomes more diverse, maybe military kids will be added to the diversity.

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    1. Thanks, Olivia! I had a hard time thinking of just one book, but I have high hopes for the future, though!

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  6. I must say that I haven't read any book with military children as a main character and let me tell you IT'S A SHAME!!! From what you described in the blog post it would be totally awesome reading about military kid and how she/he copes with all those struggles and I genuinely think it would be 1. original book and 2. very interesting for us others.
    I've read I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios and it was amazing but that was a novel mostly dealing with military aftermath.
    Really amazing blog post because I haven't think about this idea and I agree with you completetly, there should be more books about military kids. :)

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    1. Thanks Simona! I'll have to read I'll Meet You There-- I've heard a lot of praise about it. I would absolutely love to read YA books that depict the struggles of military families and I'm excited we share that opinion!:)

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  7. I love this post Claire! I completely agree. There aren't many books - let alone YA books - that feature characters who are army children, and we definitely need more of them. Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous discussion! <3

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    1. Oh! And if you're looking for recommendations, Rites of Passage by Joy N. Hensley has a protagonist who is a student at a military academy.

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  8. I have a special respect for army brats - it's amazing how they move around so often and can find the strength to leave their friends behind for a new unfamiliar place. I have a hard time leaving (I become attached really quickly) so moving around is such a difficult think to me. We definitely need more of them, because they deserve proper representation! I had a story where one of the MC was an army brat. Maybe I should go back to it...

    Claudia @ PenMarkings

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    1. Thanks Claudia! I'd love to hear about this story. In the future I hope to see greater representation of army brats, especially facing great changes.

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  9. As a military child I 100% agree with this. I move every two years because of my dad. It's really hard when one of your parents is overseas and you don't know how dangerous it's going to be. My dad is in the Canadian army but my family has been on exchange in the US a few times so I know how it is to go into the Commissary and show id.
    If there is a military child in a book they make it totally fake and that bothers me. I find it so hard to make friends and when I have to move my life to a new province/ country every 1-2 years it's hard. People don't understand the life of military children and it NEEDS to have accurate representation in the media.

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    1. Thank you for sharing with me, Breanna! I'm so glad to know that I'm not the only army brat in the book blogging community:) We definitely need better representation in the media beyond Disney channel stereotypes (one of my classmates wrote a letter to the creators of Jessie for their depiction of military kids through the character Jessie on their Christmas episode). It starts with us:)

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  10. Hi Claire. I'm not a military related person at all (and I am in fact a complete pacifist). I've read 2 YA books with kids whose parents are in the military- The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath by Charity Tahmeseb. In both cases the parent had PTSD, which is probable not accurate. I've lived in at least 12 houses in my life though, so I get the moving around thing :)
    Shar @Virtually Read

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    1. I feel that PTSD is important to portray in books to spread awareness of the daily challenges those with the disorder must face, but it is important that PTSD is depicted accurately. I haven't read The Impossible Knife of Memory or The Fine Art of Holding Your Breath, but PTSD impacts many veterans and ought to be recognized.

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  11. I've never thought of this subgenre as one that's unexplored, but I'd read more novels about military kids. Here's hoping authors are inspired! :)

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  12. This is a good point. I personally have never read a book where the main character is an army brat, but I think the reasoning behind that is the authors. How many authors are or have been army brats? How many of them have been friends with army brats? How many of them know ANYTHING about the life of an army brat? Probably 1%. (I don't know exact numbers), but I think this is the reason for lack of representation. Authors write what they know and since they don't know about the lifestyle it can be hard (or rude when they screw it up) to write about the life of an army brat. It's a problem, but it's the same reason why we see a lack of representation of a lot of types of people in YA literature nowadays, the lack of variety in authors. This is changing, surely, but it could be a while before such things are common and in the meantime, I hope you keep bringing this to people's attention. It's your voice that will help make army brats common characters in YA literature. Thank you for your discussion! Quite unique!

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    1. It is true that army brats are sparse among YA authors in general, since they already compose just a small part of the population. I may be mistaken, but I think Micheal Grant (author of Gone and Front Lines) grew up a military child. Still, he is only one writer of many. Sometimes I think the "write what you know" attitude across creative projects in general can hinder recognition of new lifestyles/ideas (like the experiences of an army brat). So, we must strive to encourage those with experience in a military family to speak out and others to learn more about those experiences.

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  13. You have a really good point. I haven't read any YA books that feature military families/military kids (I think). I admit I'm one of those people who think "military kids" are either the emo, I-hate-moving-around new kids, or ready-to-kick-some-ass ones.

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    1. Thanks Jee Ann! We need military kids in YA to shatter those stereotypes.

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  14. This is a great topic! You know, I've never actually thought about this, and now that I am, I don't recall ever reading a book with an army brat in it. I agree with Jee Ann Marie, I'm guilty of stereotyping them as the hate-moving-around new kids (mostly because the only army brat I know in real life is exactly like that.) Now I want to go add a book like that to my TBR. It's definitely something I'd want to read!

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    1. I'm glad to hear that you'd be interested in a story like this, Lisa! I certainly hope to see one I can add to my TBR soon.

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  15. I can't think of any books that feature military kids - definitely a topic that needs some attention, since it would appeal to people like you AND help others understand your lifestyle!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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  16. Hi Claire! I really enjoyed reading this post. As far as I am aware, army kids in New Zealand is a very foreign concept. But thinking about what you have written, I don't think I have read any books where the protagonist was an army kid. I would love to read one though - just so I can broaden my perspective by reading about one that is not familiar to me at all!

    Out of curiosity, what was the book that you read that had an army kid protagonist?

    Lovely post though - very thought-provoking and insightful. Thank you!

    CW (Read Think Ponder)

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  17. This is such a great post! I feel like this fits in the trend with needing more diverse books. This rings true for sexuality and race, but I feel that lifestyles should be more diverse as well. I've only read one book that had a protagonist that was an army brat (Come Back to Me by Mila Gray). Awesome discussion Clare!

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