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Dueling Reviews: The Comic Book War by Jacqueline Guest

August 21, 2014 | Cameron | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...


Teachers review:

    The Comic Book War is a youth fiction book written by Jacqueline Guest. This book deals with some very interesting topics, it just deals with too many of them for its own good. The story takes place in Calgary Alberta in 1943, and focuses on Robert Tourond, a grade ten student who is dealing with the fact that his three older brothers, George, James, and Patrick, are fighting in World War II. After finding a meteorite one night, Robert believes that three of the comic books he reads each directly relate to one of his brothers fighting overseas. Whatever might befall one of the heroes in the comic somehow parodies what is happening in the life of one of his brothers (whichever comic book hero that brother is associated with).

      Robert has an overwhelming urge to purchase these comics. He does this to feel closer to his brothers. It's as if by purchasing the comics and reading them, he is somehow helping support his brothers. If he is not able to do this, he will somehow let his brothers down, and danger will soon find them. Robert goes through many trials to earn money to purchase these comics, and through this we are introduced to the cast of characters in the book, and the many things that happen to them.

       I enjoyed the book, but it did not always succeed. Like I said above, this book deals with a lot of issues, it deals with: growing up, the belief in the unknown, family, feminism, war, and the violence of war, suicide, death, and first nations heritage, poverty, alcoholism, and maybe even a few more. As you can see that is a lot of ideas to pack in to a book that is 187 pages long. I feel that this book would have been more successful if it took out a few of those issues which would mean it would have more time to focus on the ones that remained.

         The characters were relatable, and there were some touching moments in the book. I also found parts of the book to be very cinematic, and I could see the book coming alive in my head. Near the end of the book there were times when Robert felt like he was being drawn into the comics and I could see this happening in my own mind. As well, earlier in the book Robert has to deal with his mother and there are pieces written as if they were blurbs coming right from a comic book. When I read these sections I could hear a voice in my head reading them in a 1940's news reel voice. I found it interesting how some of the relationships developed in the book between Robert and his parents, and Robert and one of his friends.

        Overall I really enjoyed parts of the book, but I found that the ending came a bit too fast, with lots of issues being wrapped up a bit too quickly for their own good. In the end, I found that the way the book ended it left this reader a bit unsatisfied.


A teenager with three brothers fighting overseas in World War II concocts an elaborate coping mechanism that works to keep his anxieties down and his spirits up—until it doesn’t.

A small meteorite takes on talismanic properties for Robert when he suddenly begins to spot mysterious parallels between the exploits of his three favorite comic-book heroes and incidents reported in the letters he receives from his big brothers, who are off in Europe with the Canadian armed forces. Determined efforts to raise enough money to buy each new issue of each comic put him head to head with hard-bitten classmate Charlene. Their bitter rivalry slowly transforms into friendship and then something closer as they come to understand what is in many of the messages they are delivering to the people in town. Then one such telegram comes to Robert’s parents, and his certainties of the links between fiction and fact are shattered. Guest gives her tale a distinctly Canadian flavor with references to locally produced comics (the better known ones from the U.S. were not imported during the war) and by casting Robert and his family as Métis, a persecuted minority. But her young characters’ emotional challenges are not confined to a particular country or war.

Built around a timely (ever timely, unfortunately) theme, this wartime tale featuring young characters with complementary strengths and vulnerabilities shines in a sharply rendered setting. (historical notes) (Historical fiction. 11-14)