Anybody Want to Play War? by Tommy B. Smith

Anybody Want to Play War? by Tommy B. Smith
Publisher: Seventh StarShadow
Genre: Young Adult, Suspense/Mystery, Historical
Length: Short Story (141 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Brutal injuries can leave scars.

As the teenage survivor of a savage dog’s rampage, it’s a lesson Bryce Gallo will never forget.

Struggling to cope with his damaged appearance, along with a newfound fear of dogs and mounting anxieties at home and school, he flees his suburban home into the moonlit streets of St. Charles.
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Along the roads of suburbia and through the shadowed heart of the city, he encounters Wheels, a maintenance worker for a series of apartment buildings; Paloma, known to some by the moniker of Lady Luck; and a woman in a dark house who is, as far as Bryce can fathom, like no one else he has met before.

His new life is not without obstacles or enemies, he learns. The future is a battlefield. Fire and smoke loom on the horizon, and his dangerous course may see the lives of his family and friends forever changed.

Some days are impossible to forget.

Bryce’s character development was incredibly well done. He’d been through a terrible experience that caused both emotional and physical trauma. His recovery was a slow and difficult one, especially when it came to how he responded to his memories of that awful day and the reactions of other people to his many scars. I had so much compassion for this character even when he was acting out. Many teens would behave the same way in his shoes, especially if they lived in the early 1980s when fewer people understood how trauma works and when medical treatments for this sort of injury weren’t as advanced as they would be today.

The mystery subplot could have used more development. I had some trouble following its developments, especially in the beginning when Bryce knew nothing about what was going on. There simply weren’t enough hints to show what was happening or why it was happening. A few more of them would have been very helpful.

One of the most interesting parts of this book for me was Bryce’s troubled relationship with his mom and stepdad. Their conflicts were incredibly complex and rooted in disagreements that had been going on for a very long time. Not only was this where the main character found a lot of opportunities for personal growth, it was also where some of the best plot developments came from. While I was satisfied with the ending, I sure would like to see a sequel that explores what their relationships were like hen Bryce was a few decades older. There was so much more room here for future storylines.

I’d recommend Anybody Want to Play War? to anyone who is interested in the 1980s or realistic depictions of mental illness after a traumatic event.

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