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Mare's War

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  836 ratings  ·  176 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 som ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 9th 2009 by 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
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 01, 2009 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
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
Jun 11, 2009 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
Kris Springer
Jan 20, 2010 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
I really enjoyed this. Both the current storyline on the road trip and the past storyline in WWII were compelling, and all the characters were great.
Dec 14, 2009 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 19, 2009 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
Hunter Alexander
Dec 18, 2014 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 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.
Tibby (she/her)
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
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Octavia and Tali may not realize it yet, but Mare didn't used to be anybody's grandmother.

Spending the summer on a cross-country road trip in Mare's little red sports car should have made for the most boring summer of their lives. But both girls are in for a few surprises. Before this trip is over, Octavia and Tali are going to get a whole new perspective on their grandma, their own family, and their country.

Holy smokes, I could not have chosen a better book to kick off my BHM read
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
Jul 15, 2010 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 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
BRMS MediaCenter
Sep 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
If a cross-country trek during summer vacation with grandma doesn’t sound interesting, guess again. In Tanita Davis’s novel Mare’s War, high school students (and sisters) Octavia and Tali embark on a road trip with their unconventional, stiletto-wearing grandmother, Mare, who reveals the story of the African Americans in the Women Army Corps during WWII. A captivating tale which seamlessly transitions between the past and present, Mare’s War reveals one of the lesser told stories of WWII, while ...more
Jan 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Talitha and Octavia are not looking forward to their summer road trip with their grandmother. They are going to be traveling from California to Florida for a family reunion. Little do they know, but they are going to be also taking a trip back in time.

Their grandmother, Mare Boylen, decides to take the opportunity to share the story of what happened to her during World War II. While driving, Mare introduces Talitha and Octavia to a girl they never would have expected their grandmother to be.

In 1
Jun 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
In this novel, Octavia and Tali, two teenage sisters that spend more time arguing then talking, are sent on a road trip with their grandmother Mare. Now, Mare isn’t your stereotypical grandmother, she drives too fast, she smokes too much, and she dresses like she’s still in her 20’s. Octavia and Tali soon find, though, that there is a lot more to Mare then they had thought. The book is broken down into chapters told from Octavia’s perspective, little inserts of postcards that the girls send duri ...more
Gail Gauthier
Jun 26, 2015 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
Jenn Estepp
There's lots I really enjoyed about this novel of two girls taking a road trip from California to Alabama with their grandmother, the titular Mare. And most of it centers on Mare herself - as the trip proceeds, she begins to tell the girls bits of her life story, leading up to when she ran away from home at seventeen to join the W.A.C. The book alternates between the contemporary/road trip action and historical scenes from Mare's life during World War II.

Without question, the historical story i
Dec 19, 2015 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
Mar 05, 2015 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
Karen Ball
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011-challenge
2010 Coretta Scott King Honor Book
"Aunt Josephine always says that running away from home was the best thing Mare ever did. You grandmother changed the world."
Wish Goodreads had the image of the paperback cover -- I absolutely love it.
Tavia and Talia are trapped on a summer roadtrip with their 80-year-old grandmother, Marey Lee Boylen. Mare's not a typical grandma -- no knitting, canes or sensible shoes for her. She wears stiletto heels, drives a red sports car, does whatever she wants and says
E.D. Martin
Sep 10, 2012 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
Feb 14, 2011 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
Sep 02, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a relatively strong historical fiction choice for younger teens and advanced tweens. The book alternates between a road-trip that modern-day teens Tali and Octavia take with their spunky grandma Mare, to Mare's story as an underaged member of the African American Women's Army Corps during World War II. The parts in the past are a compelling look at two very influential yet little-known aspects of history - the Women's Army Corps and the African American Women's Army Corps. The book also ...more
Jun 26, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: teen, not-kids
Octavia and Tali, teenage sisters, are not excited about their plans for the summer: driving across the country from California to Alabama with their grandmother for a family reunion. Their sports-car-driving, high-heel-wearing grandmother, Mare, is unpredictable, and not at all like the average grandmother. However, as they travel across the country, making stops at random roadside attractions, Mare tells the girls about her life as a teenager, when she ran away from home and her job cleaning h ...more
May 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: b-o-b-2013-1014
I read this book for Battle of the Books and probably wouldn't have picked it up otherwise but it turned out to be very enjoyable. I really like historical novels, especially when they tell me stories that I havent heard before. In Mare's War, Mare is a black woman who joins the US Army during World War II and serves in England. But while I absolutely loved Mare's story, it was tied into a road trip with Mare's two granddaughters and I did not care about their story at all. It was anoth
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