Tochi Onyebuchi's (Beasts Made of Night) fierce third work for young adults fictionalizes the Biafran-Nigerian War of the late 1960s and places it in the 2170s, in an effort to teach contemporary readers about the Nigerian military conflict and liberation movement. "Even now, as calls for secession grow anew," Onyebuchi's author's note states, "an entire generation has been raised in ignorance of the conflict. It is my hope that War Girls... can act as some sort of salve to the national wound."
Onyii began fighting in the War for Independence when she was eight, the "machine rifle in her hands" and the "machete strapped across her back" both dwarfing her tiny body as she moved "under cover of night... leaving behind a trail of bodies." At 15, she has given up war and is now one of the oldest girls in a Biafran refugee camp where she cares for her brilliant younger sister, a war orphan named Ify. When the Nigerians find the War Girl camp, the powerfully bonded sisters are split up and forced onto opposite sides of the bloody conflict.
The aspects of Onyebuchi's world--synths, androids, "massive humanoid robots," domed cities, bodyskins--create a sense of place and time while his staccato, biting style breathes life into the brutal war. Heavy and emotionally intense, there is little happiness to be found in War Girls, but Onyebuchi's skill in telling this story is joyful to behold. And, while the book painfully relates atrocities, it is optimistic, both in ending and intent. "It is my hope," Onyebuchi's note goes on to say, "that War Girls... will exhibit that emblematic Nigerian quality of taking pain and despair and dysfunction and transmuting it into something heartier, more fulfilling, more nourishing." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness