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A Spoiler Free Review: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

Is this another book review for a book I read in class? Yes. Did I love it like every other time? Yes.

The Things They Carried is a novel I would have never picked up if it wasn’t for my literature class, and it may be the most complicated novel I’ve attempted to explain. It’s set during the Vietnam War and tells the story of what Tim O’Brien witnessed while there. Usually my synopsis would be longer, but this is a book you truly have to experience with little prior explanation. Trigger Warning: This book contains scenes with graphic violence/ descriptions of death.

As I said earlier, I totally fell in love with this story. This novel completely changed my perspective and expectations surrounding storytelling, because it was so unique. If the topics of humanity, love, and war seem even remotely interesting to you, please pick up this story! I’m fairly certain it is an adult book, but it can definitely be read and enjoyed by older/mature teens since it was on a high school syllabus.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

I was blown away by this story for so many reasons, including the extremely impressive plot. The story was told through a series of short stories that reminded of the vignettes in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. The stories seemed random at times, but eventually they all wove together to reveal a greater moral. I loved this style just as much as I did in The House on Mango Street (click here for my review of it). I also felt like the war setting was done extremely well! He captured the atmosphere of war in such an intimate way, and it was fascinating to read about.

The characters in this story were some of the most intriguing ones I have ever read about. O’Brien truly put himself into the minds of these men to deliver thought provoking commentary on life, love, and war. His craft was taken to another level when it came to these characters. It was also extremely interesting to see the author as a character in a story like this, and his presence made it feel even more unique.

Finally, O’Brien also had a very individualistic writing style. Whether it was his sweeping imagery or heartening metaphors, he truly transported the reader to Vietnam with his words. Not only that, but some of the ways he discussed war gave me chills. I felt honored to be reading his words and learning this story.

To conclude, this story was absolutely phenomenal for so many reasons. I think that so many older teens and adults would love this story as much as I did.

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