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Mare's War

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  639 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
Meet Mare, a grandmother with flair and a fascinating past.

Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But some
Hardcover, 341 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2009)
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So - another WWII novel - another Girl Book. This one is FANTASTIC. And you know what? It’s a Young Adult novel.

This is the story of a teen, Marey Lee Boylen, who joins the Women’s Army Corps and becomes one of the only group of American black women to be sent to Europe during the war. It’s framed as a road trip that Mare takes with her two teenaged granddaughters some 65 years later (ie, in the present day). So there’s a good amount of comparison between the journey of growth taken by all the y
Jubilation Lee
Last Friday was WE AREN’T WORKING SO LET’S GO ON A DATE YAAAAAAY day, and Husband and I went to an air and space museum that I’d been eyeballing for years now but hadn’t ever managed to visit. It turned out to be an awesome museum—my husband didn’t understand why at one point I started shrieking about doodlebugs, but seriously, I have a much better handle of Rose Under Fire now that I’ve actually seen the damn drones she kept going on about.

And we got to fly in a fighter jet simulator machine!
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Amber Gibson for

Going on a road trip with their wacky grandmother, Mare, is not at all how either Octavia or Tali wants to spend their summer. However, at Mare's insistence, they reluctantly agree to accompany her all the way across the country for some mysterious family reunion in Alabama.

The girls don't know how they will survive all of this time cooped up together with each other and with Mare. Before they even leave the driveway, Mare is already driving Tali craz
Jun 13, 2009 Sara added it
I didn't know a thing about the Women's Army Corps in WWII, let alone the African-American units. Never fear, Mare told me all about it, in an extremely entertaining and honest voice that just makes you want to root for this girl who starts with nothing, and gains a whole new life in the Army.

Here's Mare's arrival to basic training in Des Moines:

"Can't see nothin' of Des Moines, 'cause it is pitch-dark and raining when we arrive. We stand around in the cold, waitin'. After a while, they send tru
Lauren Stoolfire
Octavia and Tali are being forced to take a cross-country road trip with their grandmother called Mare to a family reunion. Mare doesn't look or act anything like what you would expect of a grandmother, not by a long shot. For one thing, she drives a red sports car and wears stilettos. The two teens learn that there's a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to their grandmother. They realize that she was once a willful teen who fled from her less-than-perfect home to join the African America ...more
Jul 16, 2010 Jacki rated it it was ok
I can sum up my feelings for this book thusly: Eh.

It's a light, easy read despite the occasionally heavy subject matter. However, the characterization didn't work for me. I didn't see the point in including snippets from the granddaughter's point of view. To me, they added nothing to the story and only distracted from the main narrative. Then, I grew bored quickly with the heroine because she doesn't change. She's a hardheaded take-charge person from the outset, and her army experience doesn't c
Carol Baldwin
Apr 05, 2010 Carol Baldwin rated it it was amazing
Mare's War will appeal to several audiences: teenage girls who will identify with Octavia and Tali who are dragged on a road trip with their 80-year-old grandmother, Mare; African Americans who will appreciate the example of a strong female character in the Army during WWII; and teachers in 6th-9th grade who can use this book as a supplement to African American studies.

I liked it because of how the author, Tanita Davis, wove history and character education lessons into Mare’s interaction with h
Jun 11, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it
This is a fun book so far but I can’t find it to finish it. I was really liking it and then lost my ARC?!

Spitfire grandma that served in WWII takes 2 typical upper middle class American teens on a road trip and tells about the realities of her past. She covers things like racism (they are black), homophobia, rape, poverty, intense family dynamics, etc. The girls and the grandma all learn are all learning more about each other but in a realistic not "road trip movie" way. I specifically love how
Feb 17, 2011 Cathy rated it really liked it
I read this book because I was leading a teen book discussion of Flygirl by Sherri Smith and I must say it's a great companion book. While Ida Mae Jones in Flygirl has to pass for white to join the WASP, the WACs had African-American units and they didn't stay stay side.

Mare's story of the WACs is embedded in a story of her, now an eccentric 80-year-old grandmother, going to Alabama for a reunion, but needing her granddaughters to help her drive. This is no Rules of the Road. They want to stay h
Kris Springer
Jan 23, 2010 Kris Springer rated it liked it
I went back & forth between giving this a 3 or a 4. In the end, I decided that the writing wasn't strong enough for a 3. It kind of made me wonder about the Coretta Scott King Award criteria, since this was the winner for text in 2010. It's a compelling story with a likeable heroine, and very good in the way the story moves from 1945 to 2009 (the heroine is going on a trip with her 2 granddaughters in present-day).

What I didn't like was how the author held back in sharing Mare's story after
Dec 16, 2009 Kelly rated it liked it
So, more like 2.75. I couldn't get engaged with it as I wished but if I were a teen, I'd have loved it. I felt with this one like I did with Laurie Halse Anderson's "Chains" -- not enough patience as an adult but one in which I'd be utterly captivated when I was younger.

That said, I felt Mare's narrative was SO much more interesting than the kids. I also found a few weird editing issues while reading - I'd see missing articles here and there (pressed to find one now, I can't!). Nothing big but e
Sian Jones
Jul 26, 2009 Sian Jones rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
There is so much I admire in this novel. Mare's voice is real and vivid (strong, strong prose, with human breath in it), and the history she narrates is fascinating and grounded so well in her personal struggles. I loved the details of Mare's life in Bay Slough, her service in the WAC, the routine and the uniforms and the complicated camaraderie with her fellow soldiers. Is it wrong to complain that it ended? Because I will. I will complain that it ended. I'd just like to request an entire book ...more
Gail Gauthier
Jun 26, 2015 Gail Gauthier rated it it was amazing
"Mare's War is structured around a road trip. Octavia and Talitha are stuck driving cross-country with their 80-year-old grandmother who is headed for a family reunion. Marey Lee Boylen is fond of wigs, push-up bras, and stiletto heels. We get short sections involving the road trip in which Marey Lee Boylen (Mare to both friends and granddaughters) is quite a sophisticated, well spoken woman of the world. She's very knowledgeable about black history, particularly as it relates to the parts of th ...more
Erin Price
Aug 19, 2015 Erin Price rated it really liked it
Mare's War is a YA book that alternates between a modern day story of two girls reluctantly taking a summer road trip with their grandmother, and of their grandmother's tale of her time in the WAC during WWII.

The book is a quick and easy read, though I do think the framework of the modern day story was maybe under-utilized. From what I could tell, it served to relate some of the issues encountered by the women of the WAC to issues that still exist in present day America, but I think it did this
Tara Chevrestt
Aug 18, 2010 Tara Chevrestt rated it it was amazing
This is a fictional novel with fictional characters based on a real group of women, the 6888th African American Battalion of the Women's Army Corps. During world II, women gained their own army and because segregation was in effect in those days, African American women had their own battalion.

For full review and pictures of the 6888th, please click the link:
Dec 29, 2015 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Told from the alternating perspectives of 15 year-old Octavia (an African-American teenager from California) and Mare, her elderly grandmother who enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II at the age of 17, this novel tells a heartwarming tale of intergenerational bonding while also filling a gap in historical knowledge.

Mare narrates two chapters (all entitled “then”) for every one that Octavia narrates (all entitled “now”) as they drive from California to Alabama with Octavia’s old
Hunter Alexander
Feb 11, 2015 Hunter Alexander rated it liked it
This book was pretty good. I loved the twist and multiple perspectives. The story is told through the perspectives of two people. Both are main characters. Mare and Octavia. Mare was a Wac postwoman in WW2 and Octavia is Mare's granddaughter.(so is Tali.) But anyways, I would recommend this book to anyone seeking a story about World War 2.
Jul 29, 2009 Susan rated it really liked it
Great storytelling. Love the alternating narration, the moving from past to present. The characters are relatable, fully developed, memorable. History lesson that feels more like a leisure fun drive rather than the required curriculum- oh but this is the kind of history that's usually missing in our textbooks.
Michele Karmartsang
Octavia and Talitha are stuck riding along with their grandmother Mare cross country to a family reunion in Alabama. Mare's not like other grandmothers, and neither girl is happy with spending their summer this way. Along the way, though, they get to know a little bit about how Mare became the tough old broad that she is: she served in WWII, Women's Army Corp, in the all African-American 6888th battillion. Having escaped poverty and violence by entering the army in segregationist times, Mare not ...more
Highly satisfying historical novel about a black woman's experience as a WAC during WWII. Octavia and Tali dread their upcoming summer road trip with Mare, their 80-year-old grandmother who still wears stiletto heels and push-up bras and is nothing like the typical cookie-baking, soft grandma. Familial tempers flare regularly during the drive but Mare is also sharing a story the girls were not aware of, when she ran away at 16 from an alchoholic mother and her mother's sexually abusive boyfriend ...more
Marey Lee Boylen from Bay Slough Alabama was going nowhere fast. Her father was dead and she had to drop out of school to work and help her mother make ends meet. And then there was the tending to her sister, Josephine. When her mother sends Josephine off to Philadelphia to help her aunt, Marey sees a way out. She leaves home to join the Women's Army Corps. Will she be sent home because she is not of age? Will her mother ever forgive her for leaving without word or permission?

First off, I knew
Paper Clippers
Octavia and Tali are dreading the road trip their parents are forcing them to take with their grandmother over the summer. After all, Mare isn’t your typical grandmother. She drives a red sports car, wears stiletto shoes, flippy wigs, and push-up bras, and insists that she’s too young to be called Grandma. But somewhere on the road, Octavia and Tali discover there’s more to Mare than what you see. She was once a willful teenager who escaped her less-than-perfect life in the deep South and lied a ...more
The week I read this was kind of busy so my reading stretched out over almost five days. And I’m really glad it did. This was a great book to savor.

The story alternates between the road trip and Mare’s time in the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and that structure was really compelling. First, you see Mare as a young, more naive woman and as a more mature woman. Davis did a phenomenal job keeping her consistent across the time, but giving grandmother Mare more world knowledge and just a generally more
Aug 14, 2015 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: historical
The dialogue and voice in this book are simply amazing. For the first time in my life, I have actually considered writing fan mail to the author, it's that good. Ms. Davis captures the southern voice without butchering the English language by creating new spellings or making a caricature of it. I know people who talk like this. I hear these voices every day and Ms. Davis recreated them. I want to hug her and say thank you for doing it right.

Without the voice, this would simply be yet another YA
IndyPL Kids Book Blog
Mar 06, 2012 IndyPL Kids Book Blog rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-life
Teenage sisters Octavia and Tali can’t believe it when they find out they have to drive all the way across the United States with their crazy Grandmother for a family reunion. She drives slow. She’s nosy. She’s bossy. She smokes. And her car smells funny.

But these are all the things they know about their Grandmother. What they haven’t thought about is all the years their Grandmother was alive before they were even born. What was she like then? What did she do?

Once they start rolling and find hou
Brandy Painter
Originally posted here.

How much do you know about African American women serving in the Women's Army Corp during World War II? Or really the Women's Army Corp in general? I'm not going to lie despite taking two classes on the second world war in college my knowledge of both is pretty slim. In Mare's War Tanita Davis has given us a peak inside this small part of the fighting force and woven it into a greater story of family and relationship.

The story is told in alternating points of view jumping
Bronwyn Parhad
Jun 24, 2010 Bronwyn Parhad rated it it was amazing
Octavia and Tali's parents make them take a road trip from their home in California to a reunion in Alabama, with their GRANDMOTHER. They try their best to get their parents to give up on this torturous summer activity, but to no avail. After all, Mare is over 80, drives a red coupe, smokes like a chimney and has a tale to tell. Mare was one of the first women to join the 688th African American Battalion of the Women's Army Corps. Mare's story is told in the "then" chapters, which alternate with ...more
E.D. Martin
Sep 13, 2012 E.D. Martin rated it liked it
When I saw this book, I thought it would be an interesting new perspective on WWII: a black woman serving in the Women's Army Corps (WAC). And while that part was interesting, it didn't have much depth to it. We didn't really feel the emotions Marey Lee should've experienced as a teen moving from backwater Alabama to basic training and across the Atlantic. Likewise, her fellow soldiers (of which there were many named, just enough to be difficult to keep track of) didn't move much beyond names ei ...more
Danielle Larca
Dec 13, 2010 Danielle Larca rated it liked it
Shelves: young-adult
Driving across the county with their cigarette-smoking, fast-driving, very unconventional grandmother, Mare is the last way Octavia and Talitha Boylen want to spend their summer vacation. But as Mare begins to tell them about her childhood and the forces that drove her into the Women’s Army Corps during WWII, Octavia and Tali come to a deeper understanding of their grandmother and themselves.

Alternating chapters break the story down between “now” and “then”, but Mare’s story is where this book
Oct 10, 2009 Brenda rated it it was amazing
Not very often do you read a fiction book that teaches you historically accurate lessons that just beg for you to do some follow up research. This is one of those books.

Mare is an older woman with two young grand-daughters, Octavia and Tali, who seem to need a little bit of an education in what honor, courage, and strength is really about. Mare decides to take them on a cross-country trip to a secret reunion and along the way, she tells them about her past as a member of the only African-America
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