For readers of The Tiger’s Wife and All the Light We Cannot See comes Girl at War by Sara Novic, a powerful debut novel about a girl’s coming of age—and how her sense of family, friendship, love, and belonging is profoundly shaped by war.
This is a book about war through the eyes of a young person, both a child and a young adult. What are the benefits and drawbacks of a having a child/ young adult narrator? Imagine Ana in her thirties. How might she tell the story differently now?
Ana’s father tells her the story of “Stribor’s Forest” after a particularly difficult day for the family. Do you see echoes of the story’s moral throughout the rest of the book?
In what other ways does storytelling or narrative become important for Ana?
The end of Part 1 features an aside about language—Ana says she grew up thinking all languages were ciphers, translatable by swapping out alphabets. Why is this important to the story? Why do you think the Nović chose to include it during a moment of extreme violence?
The novel’s four sections often end at times of high tension. Why do you think Nović chose to write the story in a nonlinear fashion?
While at the UN, Ana makes the statement that “there is no such thing as a child soldier in Croatia.” Given her experiences, what do you think she means?
A lot of minor characters help Ana to safety along the way—who was your favorite and why?
When Ana returns to Croatia, she and Luka wonder how long it takes to forget a war. What do you think?
How might the story have been more or less effective had Ana and Luka become romantically involved?
How would you say Ana changed as a person throughout the course of the novel?
This story has in turns been classified as “historical fiction,” a “war story” and a “coming-of-age story”—which of these resonates most with you?
The end of the novel is fairly open-ended. What do you think happens after the final scene?
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