War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Published by Razorbill on October 15, 2019
Series: War Girls #1
Genres: Cyberpunk, Science Fiction, War, Young Adult
Length: 464 pages Source: BookCon 2019
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The year is 2172. Climate change and nuclear disasters have rendered much of earth unlivable. Only the lucky ones have escaped to space colonies in the sky.
In a war-torn Nigeria, battles are fought using flying, deadly mechs and soldiers are outfitted with bionic limbs and artificial organs meant to protect them from the harsh, radiation-heavy climate. Across the nation, as the years-long civil war wages on, survival becomes the only way of life.
Two sisters, Onyii and Ify, dream of more. Their lives have been marked by violence and political unrest. Still, they dream of peace, of hope, of a future together.
And they're willing to fight an entire war to get there.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free from BookCon 2019 and Razorbill in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
At the beginning, I was absolutely enthralled with War Girls. The first hundred pages hooked me. The characters were interesting and the world building was fascinating. A lot of science fiction coming out these days feels copy/pasted. The language and setting feel the same – that’s not the case with War Girls.
The science fiction in this book was so refreshing. It was sharp and technical enough that it felt modern and real… even though it’s set a century in the future. A lot of sci-fi I’ve read in the last couple years is very comfortable talking about space, but that’s the end of it. Hand-in-hand with space is technology. War Girls has bionic implants, mechs, and advanced weaponry. It doesn’t shy away from technical jargon, and that makes the book feel more immersive.
War Girls centers around a Nigerian-Biafra conflict far in the future. The conflict itself is based on various wars that have devastated the African continent and continue to do so to this day. War is gruesome and unforgiving. The action sequences are intense. There’s death and dismemberment. War Girls is realistic about the affects of war.
Onyii and Ify are great characters, and I was really hoping for an amazing sibling story… but I don’t feel like that’s what happened. In part one, everything flowed perfectly. There are strong characters, emotional attachments, and good stakes. After that, I felt like things got a little muddled. There was a lot of back and forth in time. I wasn’t sure who the author wanted presented as the “good guys” or the “bad guys” in the conflict. There were just a lot of ideas going on at once and not a lot of follow-through on any of them.
I enjoyed certain, specific scenes. There was a piece in the middle where Enyemaka is in the desert, and that’s a great scene. It’s also not relevant to the story, unless it comes to the surface in the next book. War Girls is over 400 pages and the last 60% is very ambling. I understand that there needs to be a level of chaos, and there was an ongoing conflict, but there didn’t seem to be a straight direction for the story. When something happened, it just seemed to incidentally come together. It felt like there was a lot of high tension all the time and nothing really seemed to flip the switch.
War Girls had a lot of starting potential, but the messiness of story as I got further in was a bit of a deterrent for me. While I’m not entirely against picking up the second book when it comes out, I think I will wait to see some reviews, and even then, maybe go the audiobook route. I think it was really original in many ways, and honestly, it started off really good. I’d still recommend giving it a try, if you’re interested in a post-apocalyptic, story with a lot of diverse characters. It didn’t click with me because of the pacing, energy levels, and the writing in the second half of the plot, but I still think it’s a good overall book and I really hope it does well.
War Girls will be donated
I really don’t know that this would be a book I’d read again. I liked War Girls for some of its elements, but as a whole this one was not a re-reader for me. Like I mentioned, this may be better for me in a different format, and I’m not against reading the rest of the series. It just didn’t have that “I love it and can’t wait to read it again” vibe.
Have you read any other mech-related YA books? Mech seems to be popular in anime, but I haven’t run across it in books. I’d be interested in other ones, if you have suggestions!