The Comic Book War

24 December 2014

The Comic Book War
by Jacqueline Guest
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Alison Slowski
$12.95 ISBN 9781550505825

The Comic Book War delivers in every aspect, as Jacqueline Guest perfects every detail in executing one of the best new Young Adult fiction novels that Saskatchewan has to offer. A refreshing story, it tells fifteen-year-old Robert Tourond’s heart-wrenching tale of being the youngest brother left at home with his parents, while his two older brothers go off to fight in World War II. One cold winter night in his hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Robert is stargazing on Nose Hill when he suddenly catches a glimpse of what he believes to be a meteorite, and his life is changed forever. Unbelievably, he spots a piece of the meteorite, which has landed closer than he initially believed, and he takes a small fragment of the rock home for safekeeping.

Robert appears in every aspect as a fairly ordinary teenager of the mid-1940’s, not fitting in with his peers at school. Motivated to not have his parents hanging off his wallet in hard times, he just wants to buy himself what he loves most—comic books. He devours comic books ravenously, caught up in the prolific, popular stories of the Canadian superheroes of the day: Captain Ice, Sedna of the Sea, and Johnny Canuck. He only feels slightly bereft of his favoured American comic books in the drought they’ve been purged into by the War Exchange Conservation Act between the United States of America and Canada, preventing the shipping of non-essential goods during World War II. Wanting to keep a good customer rapport between himself and his favourite comic book vendor at a local pharmacy, he decides after a blow-up with his parents that he needs more than his paltry allowance funds, in order to keep buying his favourite comics. When there is a contest at school that offers Robert a chance to make more money, he suddenly feels driven to make a difference in the lives of those also affected by the war—and finds himself toe-to-toe with a girl at school, “Crazy” Charlie, over it.

Meanwhile, Robert keeps up voraciously-and vicariously-with his brothers fighting overseas, and keeps up-to-date on their news as religiously as he does his comics. While still butting heads with Crazy Charlie, at school and outside of it, he starts to see the strangest and most unlikely similarities between his brothers’ war exploits and those of his favourite comic book superheroes’ heroic deeds of derring-do. He feels that his piece of the meteorite connects the two things. Could this merely be a coincidence, or is there a deeper meaning to all of this? All this and more is explained in Guest’s captivating novel. With all the excitement, heartache, and suspense of a war novel that introduces well-realized characters, The Comic Book War is a story not to be missed.


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