London, Bloomsbury, 2012, 202p
Sometimes, I struggle to find fiction to recommend to young boys. There is so much out there for girls, and often girls are more willing to engage with a male protagonist. You rarely find a boy interested in a female novel.
Eleven Eleven is an exciting, dangerous book about boys (for boys and girls). It tells the story of three young men on the front line during the last day of World War One. Axel is a German soldier in his first day in action; Eddie is an American pilot, well-decorated and ambitious; and Will is a young Brit, fighting alongside his older brother, who has lied his way into the army to impress his sweetheart.
On 11th November 1918 at 11am, it was declared that the war had ended. However, in the hours leading up to this time, lives were still being lost, battles were still being fought. This novel, based in fact, is about the challenges faced by young men during this time. Dowswell comments that this story only demonstrates a small sample of the tragedy of this conflict, but it is a gripping and emotive introduction for a young reader.
The three men are equally brave and terrified. They are a personification of the feelings and experiences of a great many recruits. As their stories diverge, we realise the similarities between the different nations - each struggling with the responsibility of serving their country and the guilt of hurting another man. Dowswell highlights that great legend of war: the sympathy one man feels towards another, despite their differences and the all-enveloping war. It leaves you with hope, and some semblance of peace.