3 out of 4 stars
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Through My Daughter’s Eyes by Julia Dye is a young adult novel about a military family’s experiences from the perspective of the soldier’s daughter. Middle-schooler Abbie Matthews is an Army brat living with her parents in Austin, TX. When her father’s battalion is deployed to the Middle East, she and her mother have trouble coping. Abbie starts having panic attacks and nightmares, while her mother withdraws and starts drinking heavily. The tween finds the situation difficult to handle and begins to see a therapist.
I thoroughly enjoyed this thought-provoking book. The topic of how a family deals with a loved one’s deployment during wartime is realistically portrayed. An only child, Abbie worries about her father being in danger. Her mother, Stacy, gets drunk during the day in order to cope. This leads to her falling asleep and failing to pick Abbie up from school, as well as a drunk-driving arrest.
The characters are all well drawn, including Abbie’s best friend Megan. Abbie’s grandfather is also an interesting character as he is a combat veteran and can relate to the current situation. He becomes a much-needed source of support for Abbie, since her mother has become distant emotionally.
The conversational writing style is done so well that I felt as if Abbie was chatting with me in person. The tween’s “voice” is captured with all the facets of her personality and anxiety about her father’s safety. The description of Abbie and her mother walking like zombies is very apt and gave me a good sense of their state of mind. The author has a real talent for creating imagery, whether it’s the rock climbing wall in Abbie’s bedroom or a going-away barbecue for the soldiers. The section detailing Abbie and her father’s visit to the VA office is particularly well written and showcases the VA’s overly bureaucratic system.
The story is fast-paced and I almost finished the entire book in one evening. The emotions are palpable and I wished I could reach out and comfort Abbie msyelf. Still, there is a rushed feel with time jumps that are sometimes confusing. I thought one scene occurred soon after her dad's deployment and then discovered the time period was nine months later. Also, one chapter ends with her grandfather telling Abbie her mom is in jail. There is no explanation given, although the reader can speculate it’s for drunk driving. The next chapter moves on to a different topic and there is no follow-up on the cause or aftermath of Stacy’s arrest.
The book contains several errors. There are missing words, incorrect word usage/typos within the context, spelling errors, etc. A few examples are: “there is goes” instead of “there it goes,” “one” instead of “once,” and “listed to the adults talk” instead of “listened to the adults talk.” The errors mar the otherwise high quality of the writing.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It is an engrossing, raw look at the impact of war deployment on a family. I recommend this story to military families and anyone who has felt the ground shift significantly in their daily lives. I was sad to leave the characters behind on the last page and hope the author will consider writing a sequel.
Through My Daughter's Eyes
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