fiction, Middle Grade, reviews

Review: War and Watermelon by Rich Wallace

War and Watermelon

Rich Wallace

184 pages

Publication Year: 2010

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Source: Publisher

I look across the pond and see Patty Moriarity and Janet DeMaria hanging out by the refreshment stand. They’re in two-piece bathing suits, but not bikinis. They’re the type of girls that are over our heads. Not at the top of the list of coolest girls, but close to it. We’re pretty much near the bottom of the guys; low-middle at best.

It’s the summer of 1969 and Brody Winslow feels a change in the air. It might be because seventh grade means going to a new school where he’ll only know half the kids there and trying out for the school football team. Those are small changes compared to what his older brother, Ryan, is going through. Ryan will be turning eighteen in a little more than a month which means he’s eligible for the draft. Ryan knows that he doesn’t want to fight in the war that’s going on in Vietnam but he’ll feel like a coward if he takes the easy road and go to college though he’s not ready for it.

When I first start a book, I’m curious to see how the author lays out things like the plot, characters, and language. I wonder if the plot will do something different and/or exciting. I want to see whether the language of the story is interesting and beautiful enough for me to underline passages or dog-ear a page. I’m always hoping the characters are interesting enough to follow. Sadly, War and Watermelon disappointed me with almost all three aspects.

One of the problems with W&W is that it’s written for a pretty specific audience. Brody ends up on the football team of his junior high so there’s a ton of talk about football – a sport that I don’t follow at all. I understand sections of the book have to include the team and games but I found some of those sections uninteresting. I just waited for those parts to be over. I think any reader who doesn’t follow the sport might think so too.

Another thing that I had a problem with is the heavy inclusion of top 10 songs from that time. When done well it’s interesting to know what the protagonist is listening to at the time and makes the reader get to know the time period and characters better. But as someone who wasn’t born until almost twenty years later, I have no idea what any of these songs sound like and I wasn’t curious enough to find out. Towards the end of the book, I just skipped those sections. If I didn’t bother with those sections at the end, would a regular MG reader (ages 10-13) care about those sections?

Those two things would be minor complaints if the book was interesting enough but I found myself wishing I could quit reading after the first ten pages. If this was a book that I picked up at the library or bought it myself, I would have. There wasn’t enough going on to keep me interested in the characters – most of whom show little growth except Ryan. Even though I’m a heavy MG reader, I would have loved it if this book was YA and from the perspective of Ryan who had to figure out what he wanted at such a young age of seventeen.

War and Watermelon isn’t a bad book but it’s a “meh” kind of book, so my Goodreads rating for it is three stars out of five.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to review War and Watermelon.

7 thoughts on “Review: War and Watermelon by Rich Wallace”

  1. I read another review that said pretty much the same things. I do like football and remember listening to the radio then, so I wonder if it would appeal to me more.

  2. It does sound as if this one was a little lackluster, so I am pretty sure that it’s one that I won’t read. It’s too bad you were disappointed with it. Thanks for being honest enough to share the problems that you had. It was appreciated.

  3. I do like football, but I don’t read much middle grade fiction. You make some great points about relating to the intended audience too. While I’m familiar with the songs of that time (and always appreciate historical accuracy), it sounds like the author was trying to write something that could have been written during that time than a historical re-imagining.

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