“An urgent and deeply moving novel” (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times) about a young American soldier struggling to find meaning during the final, dark days of the War in Iraq.
The US military is preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and newly minted lieutenant Jack Porter struggles to accept how it’s happening—through alliances with warlords who have Arab and American blood on their hands. Day after day, Jack tries to assert his leadership in the sweltering, dreary atmosphere of Ashuriyah. But his world is disrupted by the arrival of veteran Sergeant Daniel Chambers, whose aggressive style threatens to undermine the fragile peace that the troops have worked hard to establish.
As Iraq plunges back into chaos and bloodshed and Chambers’s influence over the men grows stronger, Jack becomes obsessed with a strange, tragic tale of reckless love between a lost American soldier and Rana, a local sheikh’s daughter. In search of the truth and buoyed by the knowledge that what he finds may implicate Sergeant Chambers, Jack seeks answers from the enigmatic Rana, and soon their fates become intertwined. Determined to secure a better future for Rana and a legitimate and lasting peace for her country, Jack will defy American command, putting his own future in grave peril.
For fans of Phil Klay’s Redeployment or Ben Fountain’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Youngblood provides startling new dimension to both the moral complexity of war and its psychological toll.
Written by an Iraq War veteran, this visceral novel is narrated by Jack Porter, a young army lieutenant tasked to counterinsurgency at the town of Ashuriyah 10 years after the invasion of Iraq. He is informed that he will be getting a new sergeant for his platoon, Daniel Chambers, a veteran non-com. It is quickly clear that Chambers has a different way of doing things. Porter is all about the mission and going by the book, while Chambers is all about personal survival adjusting the Rules of Engagement when necessary and not above planting a drop weapon when an Iraqi civilian is killed. A sort of war begins between the two men for control of the platoon. At the same time, a curious Porter begins delving into the background of Chambers's cohort, Sgt. Edgar Rios, killed in combat under mysterious circumstances. This leads him to the woman Rios loved, a sheik's daughter named Rana who he discovers is an abused woman with two young children. Porter vows to help her, even if it means defying the army brass and going so far as to perform a criminal act. Based on his own combat experience, Gallagher (Kaboom) writes knowingly about the futility of keeping the peace in Iraq, where it seems almost impossible to identify friend from foe. He imbues the struggle between Porter and Chambers with a moral heft while never reducing these two powerful characters to mere symbols of a military mission gone terribly wrong.