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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Unlikely Soldiers: Civvy to Squaddie, Book One is a military fiction novel written by Deb McEwan. Guy’s daily schedule was crowded from the moment he woke up until he went to sleep. His father was in prison, and his mother seemed unwilling to take any responsibility for the care of her four younger children. It was only due to the fact that his school was located too far away for him to be in charge of collecting his younger brothers and sisters from school that his mother had to accept that task, which she did in no small measure because she feared the fine a police report would bring. Guy kept the house in order, fed and cared for the other kids, and then went off to do his paper route after school. Still, his mother was outraged that he wanted to continue with his schooling instead of going to work full-time and becoming as she called it ‘the man of the house.’ He kept his savings hidden out of her reach and planned to open a savings account for his education. Mr. Jarvis, his next-door neighbor, gave him encouragement and advice about his plans for school, and his math teacher also recognized his abilities, but getting past his obligations to his family would be difficult. While he knew an education is important, the seventeen-year-old still wondered if enlisting in the army wasn’t the best way for him to escape the trouble at home.
Deb McEwan’s military fiction novel, Unlikely Soldiers: Civvy to Squaddie, Book One, is a fascinating and enthralling look at Great Britain in the 1970s as experienced through the eyes of Guy, a North Yorkshire teen, and Mouse, a Welsh girl. I was immediately drawn into Guy's story and found myself experiencing the culture of the seventies, albeit from distant shores. McEwan’s descriptions of the military training each of them go through are authentic and masterfully presented, and the reader can’t help but get involved in the day-to-day challenges each of her characters face as they endure the rigors of basic training and find their ways into their chosen career paths. This military fiction novel is also a marvelous coming of age tale that includes a sympathetic portrayal of the problems faced by children from dysfunctional families and the issues facing girls and women at the time. I had a marvelous time reading Unlikely Soldiers and am looking forward to the next book in the series. It’s most highly recommended.