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May 28, 2012

Review: While He Was Away by Karen Schreck - Juhina


While He Was Away
Title: While He Was Away
Author: Karen Schreck
Publisher: Sourcebook Fires
Publication Date: May 1st, 2012
Genre(s): Young Adult (Contemporary)
Source: NetGalley
Format: Digital ARC
Pages: 249
"This is just something I have to do, okay?" I hear David say. "The right thing."

He cradles my face in his hands. He kisses me hard. Then he lets go of me. His eyes dart from me to whatever's next.


All she wants is for him to stay. She's been doing pretty well, pretending he doesn't have to go. But one day, after one last night to remember, she wakes up and there's no denying it anymore. He's gone.

When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing.

She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with?
I had hopes that While He Was Away would be an eye opening, emotional experience for me, but unfortunately, it was not that. I understood it was about a girl's boyfriend being drafted and going off to Iraq, and the struggles she will be facing once he was gone. However, throughout the whole book I did not feel any emotional connection towards Penna. I felt like there were too many things going on in the book. Unnecessary things that do not have any relation to the main plot of the book but were added to just increase the page count. Penna needing so much to look for her long lost grandmother all of a sudden raised a lot of question marks for me. Her weird relationship with her mother and blaming her for everything just ticked me off. I felt like she was the most ungrateful child ever! Even though her mother sacrificed SO MUCH for her, she still treated her like dirt and that totally rubbed me the wrong way. 
Then we've got her relationship with David's fallen out best friend Ravi. After David left to Iraq, Penna had only a handful of encounters with him but somehow the idea of more kept on wedging in to the plot. I was just so confused on WHY would Penna even need to assure herself multiple times that he is just David's friend. Even though all they ever did was exchange a few awkward conversations. Yes, the plot could have gone in that direction, but with barely anything happening and for her to feel that way was just absurd. 
To be honest, what really made me so disconnected with all the characters was a scene that happened with David and Penna. They went on a website to play this game where the target was an arabic guy, and the point of the game was to shoot red paintballs so they will splatter all over him (as if he is bleeding). While Penna was hesitant, David told her "Think of 9/11, he totally deserves this". Now THAT was so unbelievably offensive towards me and such an unbelievable generalization that I was stunned for a minute or two. I am muslim and arabic and like the rest of the world, I was horrified by what happened on 9/11. I really hate how as soon as people hear arabs and muslims nowadays they associate it with the act of terrorism. Which is why it hurt a little to read about that incident and I just lost all connection with these characters, which was why I just couldn't get into the story. I do know the author wanted to portray the reality of how many people think, I respect her for that, but I lost all connection or care for these characters after that.
All in All, While He Was Away held promise, however the main plot was not strong enough and the addition of many secondary plots somehow ruined the overall experience of the book. I hoped for more emotional, soul searching type of book, but that was not what I got. However, as always, if the book seems interesting, pick it up! you might enjoy it way more than I did. 
1.5 to 2 musical notes


4 comments:

  1. Juhina, although I enjoyed this book, I was so glad to read your review because I was EXTREMELY curious to see how other readers would react to David's response to that game. I definitely thought the author would do something more with it,and I was pretty surprised when she didn't address it further later on. Because to me, that TOTALLY felt like something that should have and could have been discussed in greater detail because I have no idea what she was trying to get at there.

    Thanks for sharing your review!

    Brenna from Esther's Ever After

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  2. This definitely sounds all over the place. I figured it would be about missing her boyfriend and maybe she would fall for her friend. But it sounds like she searches for her grandmother and yells at her mom and has a few awkward conversations with his friend. All rather pointless indeed. That game seems random but like you said I guess the author just wanted to show some of the wrong and horrible thinking people can have. All in all it doesn't really sound like my kind of read. Great review!

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  3. I've wanted to read this for awhile because I have such a personal connection to the Iraq war, but I'm absolutely horrified to read about that scene between David and Penna. While I can maybe understand the motivation to including something like that, it's horrible to see -- and if the author doesn't really go into why that was said or enhance on it more, as it seems like she didn't, that can be horribly misunderstood. I've heard mixed things about this book, but I probably won't put it too high on my TBR list now...thanks for the great review!

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  4. This is depressing as I have this one on my shelf. I'll still give it a try, but I'm not expecting to enjoy it :(

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