The Last Full Measure, by Ann Rinaldi

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Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) As Confederate and Union soldiers take over their town, the local residents can do little more than hunker down in their homes while cannon and gunfire explode around them. But the battles are not only fought between soldiers. At home, fourteen-year-old Tacy and her disabled brother lock horns as David struggles with his desire to go to war. He has strong principles, and it tortures him to allow others to fight while he does nothing.

In the aftermath of this great and terrible battle, in which so many soldiers sacrifice their lives for their beliefs, David gives his last full measure … and leaves Tacy struggling to make sense out of it all.

Thoughts: This was the first novel by Ann Rinaldi that I have read, and I have to say that I can’t imagine a better introduction to her works of YA historical fiction. The story being told from the first person perspective, I loved the way even the narration contained what we now consider to be antiquated ways of speaking, turns of phrase and attitudes evident of the time period in which the novel takes place. That little touch made a big difference in being able to fall into the story.

Tacy’s story was not one of grand adventure or romance or saving the day. Ultimately, it was the story of someone trying to get by in difficult times, when it feels like the world is falling apart around her. It’s not heavily action-based, and you’re not going to find yourself on the edge of your seat with excitement, but you’re going to see real people in a real situation from history, and if you’re the sort to love character-driven stories, then the pages will keep turning and you’ll find yourself engrossed in the story, wondering what happens next in spite of the fact that there’s no major personal conflict or resolution. There is fear, though, and a great sense of loss that’s very easy to empathize with, even if you haven’t lost somebody to war.

Above all else, Tacy is believable. She could easily be a friend from school, a sister, someone across the street. Her thoughts and feelings come across well, she’s a very well-rounded and fleshed-out character (as they all are, really, even the ones we don’t get to see too much of), and I like her spunk.

What struck me the most when reading this book is that war doesn’t change. Certainly, the technology used in war changes, but war itself is always going to be full of death, of broken bodies and limbs and blood, of the stench of the dead and people mourning for them. It’s the same today as it was a hundred years ago, two hundred, and so on back. People die as often for the right cause as the wrong one, and more often than not, those lines aren’t as clearly drawn as some would have people believe. There are gentlement enemies and bastard allies.

I can say with certainty that if I got the chance to read more of Rinaldi’s novel, I’d take that chance. I love her style, the way she writes to let the reader fall into the story and become a part of it rather than just seeing it from the outside. Very smooth, easy to grasp. Not the most spectacular novel ever written, but still very enjoyable nonetheless, and I was glad to have read it.

if you’re the sort to like character-driven stories (as I said before), or just have an interest in historical fiction, you should definitely check this one out.

(Book obtained for review from NetGalley.)

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