American War

American War

eBook - 2017 | First edition
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle--a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself. Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780451493590
Characteristics: 1 online resource


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jan 06, 2020

American War is well written, if in need of better editing. I don't think the story needed to be as long as it was. In the end this book is a depiction of how violence begets more violence, and how one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Interesting read given the times we are living in, where climate could be the catalyst for civil war; and careless politicians could be the catalyst for destruction.

Oct 18, 2019

I thought this was an important and, on the whole, plausible vision of the future. Climate change of an extreme nature not fair down the pike, and Trump is telling Texans that the Dems would cut off their oil. Demagoguery with climate could create a world like this one, where one side of the nation fights the other. I thought it showed that the author had read southern literature and knew what alliances and vengeance looked like in real world settings. My mother's family was from the border areas in the Civil War (in Tennessee), and some of her description of the attitudes she had seen over the years on her trips back there may we find too plausible that our country's future may be negative again. Portland reader

STPL_JessH Sep 13, 2019

American War is absolutely outstanding. I loved the writing, and often gasped audibly at the artistry of a particular description. I was fortunate enough to listen to the audio book and the narration by Dion Graham is outstanding. His reading added such gravitas to Omar El Akkad's debut.

I so admire Sarat's complexity. Akkad does not take the easy way out and position her in some kind of tomboyish box. Instead, we see her naiveté, her bravery, her flawed choices, and her raw and brutal pain.

I loved the inclusion of historical commentary pieces. I found the play with time – historical documents about a future society – allowed Akkad to offer sociopolitical commentary on the civil war of the past we know while proving the adage that history repeats itself. So many moments in this narrative could have been lifted directly from newspaper articles from the civil war and indeed from our current arena: including the types of torture used by American guards.

I recognize the limiting attitudes in this book far too well. I also appreciated Akkad's resistance to make the future some kind of technologically advanced society with flying cars or other clichés. The constant reminders of the eco devastation of climate change were powerful and necessary (eg. vegetables that won't grow, a Category 6 hurricane being dismissed as not really a big deal).

I cried throughout the final section as the loose ends were tied and all the pieces fit together. Akkad has achieved an awe-inspiring work of emotion, poetry, brutality, and depth.

Jun 26, 2019

Listing here so as not to lose/forget . . . 2nd civil war . . . climate change impact

Mar 01, 2019

The world El Akkad built in American War is the novel's most interesting component. I agree with some other reviewers, the dialogue is occasionally cringey and overreaches to the implausible, but give it a read if you're a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre. It's certainly a fascinating lens through which to observe our current time. Also a very fast read.

Jan 23, 2019

I wanted to like this, since it was the Hillsboro Reads selection for 2018, but I couldn't get through it. I didn't like the characters, there was too much character development (I kept thinking "get on with it"), and it was just slow.

Jan 01, 2019

Too slow. Kept wishing something was going to happen to grab me. After 250 pages, gave up.

JCLS_Ashland_Kristin Dec 25, 2018

An exploration of characters in the midst of a civil war. Interesting.

Hillsboro_HillaryO Oct 19, 2018

Hillsboro Reads 2018 title selection! It was, I'll be honest, a tough read for me; but the author's beautiful narrative and writing, ability to tell a story that will show you empathy in unexpected ways, and imagination to weave this fictitious-though-very-realistic tale together are commendable. I read this book out loud with my husband on a road trip and he was literally on the edge of his seat! Recommended for book groups -- you'll want to talk about it.

Hillsboro_ElizabethH Oct 18, 2018

I really tried to get through this. I made it though about 100 pages and had to put it down because I kept falling asleep every time I tried to read it.

View All Comments


Add a Summary
Mar 30, 2018

Sarat Chestnut is born by the sea, into contested territory between the Reds and Blues that are fighting the Second American Civil War. Her world is wracked by climate change, and by the South’s refusal to give up on fossil fuels. Much of the Southern US coast is now underwater, and out-of-control drones crawl the skies. When her father is killed in a bombing, Sarat’s mother and her three children flee to Camp Patience, a refugee camp on the North/South border. There they scrape together a life always on the edge of dissolution, and the children grow up with the question of what the future can possibly hold for them. It is here that Sarat meets the mentor who will shape her mind, and turn her to his own ends.


Add a Quote
Mar 30, 2018

If we nod and smile while they parade some fantasy about this being a noble disagreement between equals and not a bloody fight over their stubborn commitment to a ruinous fuel, the war will never really be over…You fight the war with guns, you fight the peace with stories.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at TPL

To Top