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Pheemie's War: Coming of Age in WWII


Set in the turbulent backdrop of Phoenix, Arizona during the early years of World War II, Pheemie's War is the wry and bittersweet coming-of-age story of upper-crust Pheemie Longworth and the Mexican boy she loves. Sixteen-year-old Pheemie is shy and introspective, but her twin sister never met a dare—or a soldier‑she didn't absotively posilutely adore.  

With all the passion and ginger of youth, the girls throw themselves into the War Effort.  And what they do is all harmless fun . . . until it isn’t.  What happens to the two sisters in 1942, like the war itself, banishes Pheemie’s innocence forever and captures the single instant when childhood dies and a woman is born.  

Her journey into adulthood asks a timeless question: can it ever be right to do something you know is wrong?

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.25 out of 10


Plot/Idea: This gentle but powerful story follows Pheemie Longworth as she falls in love with Rafe Gonzalez, set against the backdrop of the second World War. Reynolds immerses readers in Pheemie's inner emotions and thoughts as she goes through young love, war, loss, and, eventually, a coming-of-age transformation. The story is so heavily weighted to Pheemie's viewpoint that the other characters' decisions, particularly those of Rafe, are portrayed primarily through their impacts on Pheemie.

Prose: Reynolds possesses a unique style that immediately engages readers.  Many scenes are ended before their turning point, allowing for suspense to build in the storyline, but also detracting some from the connection readers will build with the primary characters. Despite the abrupt closing to some of the novel's important moments, Reynolds delivers beautiful one-lined conclusions, even pacing, and character perspectives that will draw readers in.

Originality: Pheemie's viewpoint envelops readers, and Reynolds skillfully builds the novel's love story, and the characters' experiences of war, through Pheemie's eyes—those of a teenage girl on the cusp of growing up. That choice gifts the story with the perfect balance of innocence and complexity.

Character/Execution: Pheemie, Rafe, and Pheemie's sister, Zella, are polished characters teetering on the verge of adulthood, trying to navigate the bounds of love and attraction in the midst of a war that alters every part of their world. They have little opportunity to ease into maturity, and their development is established within the limits of World War II and its aftermath. The characters are rightly flawed, but that only serves to make them more memorable, given the changes going on around them. 

Date Submitted: July 19, 2023