Book Review: Lovely War

September 25, 2019


Let’s take a moment here to appreciate the cover of Lovely War, which drew my eye in every single time I saw it, and which often tempted me to pick it up at the bookstore. I was familiar with author Julie Berry as well, who I’ve read several titles from and enjoyed for the most part, so that was yet another reason that this book was on my radar for consideration to read. But I only picked it up after my friends Hannah and Kelly (who I trust implicitly when it comes to historical fiction of any age group) read and raved about this novel. 

I’m so glad I did because Lovely War is, without question, one of my favorite reads of 2019. 

Lovely War is young adult historical fiction, as it recounts the love stories of two young couples during World War I. But there’s a fantastical twist to the tale, as the story is being told by the Greek goddess Aphrodite to her husband Hephaestus and her love Ares. Intriguing set-up, to say the least. While I didn’t know what to make of it initially, I can say with confidence that readers will be in for a treat if they let themselves be swept away! Berry’s choice to tell her story this way simply works, as it offers perspective, omniscience and color to a story that might have otherwise been like any other. It also subtly nudges the novel into a place where readers are invited to explore themes like war, death, creativity and love, both by blatantly offering opinions from the gods in the narrative and by the implications of the events that unfold. 

Falling in love with the story and its telling is only half the reason that this novel is one of my favorites. The other half has to do with the characters - from the group of gods and goddess telling and hearing the story to the couples the story happens to be about – who were so vividly portrayed. It was simple to keep them all apart, not just because of the variety of events taking place, but also because their individual personalities felt real and complex and true, for lack of a better word. It was all too easy to find myself invested in every single one of their stories; to care so deeply about the outcome that I would see it through the really difficult bits; to feel so keenly the joy, the fear, the anger, the sorrow, the love that each went through. Their individual stories were compelling, their relationships were wonderfully complex, and it all came together so beautifully by the end. 

I honestly loved my experience with Lovely War, as this novel in all its aspects hit all my personal sweet spots when it came to settings, characters, themes and plot. It was, without a doubt, one of the best surprises in my reading life this 2019, and one that you’ll see me recommend time and again as the year goes on (and in the future). If you’re at all intrigued, I hope you’ll consider picking this one up, and I hope you end up loving it as much as I do! 

An additional note - I wound up listening to the audiobook, upon the recommendation of my friend Gaby. It’s an experience I can 100% recommend if you do like audiobooks, as it includes a full cast (one for every narrator, and all extremely talented in bringing their characters to life) and musical pieces (an extra detail that really worked well to enhance the reading and emotional experience of the story).

Lovely War was released on March 5, 2019 by Viking Books for Young Readers.

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