Novic builds the inner world of Ana’s childhood — as both puberty and paramilitaries loom just over the horizon — with the same vivid detail she gives the blockaded city ... With the stateside setting, both prose and plot occasionally stumble into well-worn territory ... Throughout, Girl at War performs the miracle of making the stories of broken lives in a distant country feel as large and universal as myth. It is a brutal novel, but a beautiful one.
Nović follows the lurch into total nightmare all the way to the event that terminates the first section, and Ana’s childhood. This is tough territory for any novelist, and it takes guts to go there. This key scene is written with chilling restraint: in the unspeakable moment, that crisp voice is devastating ... The young perspective is the novel’s principal charm, but the tone is disrupted with too many overstretched exchanges anxious to tell us things we already know ... Nović excels at distilling visual poetry from action scenes, and there is one section in the middle that steals the show, when the shellshocked young Ana drifts into a twilight community and becomes an accidental combatant.