Discussion Guide: Girl at War

1. This is a book about war as seen through the eyes of a young person, first as a child and then as a young adult. What are the benefits and drawbacks of having a child or young adult narrator? Imagine Ana in her thirties. How might she tell the story differently?

2. 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 elsewhere in the book?

3. In what ways do storytelling or narrative become important for Ana?

4. The end of Part I 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 Nović chose to include it during a moment of extreme violence?

5. Why do you think Nović chose to write the story in a nonlinear fashion? How would your reading experience have changed if the narrative had been chronological?

6. While testifying at the United Nations, 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?

7. A lot of minor characters help Ana to safety along the way; which one was your favorite, and why?

8. When Ana returns to Croatia, she and Luka wonder how long it takes to forget a war. What do you think?

9. How might the story have been affected by Ana and Luka becoming romantically involved?

10. How would you say Ana changed as a person over the course of the novel?

11. 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?

12. The novel’s conclusion is fairly open-­ended. What do you think happens after the final scene?