Dogtag Summer

by Elizabeth Partridge
215 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by bookRacoon

A truthful, well-written work of fiction with shaky spirituality and morality.


During the summer break between fifth and sixth grade, Tracy and her friend Stargazer stumble upon her dad's ammo box from Vietnam. When they break it open and discover its contents, a process of healing and discovery begins for Tracy and her father and mother.


Both Stargazer (whose parents are obviously hippies) and Tracy really invade Bob's (Tracy's father) privacy. Tracy goes so far as to thoroughly searching her parent's bedroom when Bob hides the ammo box and dogtag. Stargazer also treats Bob's Vietnam tokens with (ignorant) disrespect.

In Vietnam, Americans, South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese treated civilians harshly, and quite often killed those who got in their way.

Spiritual Content

Tracy prays to Quan Am, a Buddhist deity that Tracy's Grandmother taught her to pray to. Nuns taking care of Tracy and other orphans tell them to pray to Jesus for protection.


War is violent, and people are shot and killed, arms are twisted and broken, people are punched and wrestled. This book does not describe these events in detail - it simply says that they happened.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Bob drinks bourbon every night (usually with a glass of water and usually not too much). He is not drunk throughout the book though, and when he does drink excessively, Tracy's mom scolds him for it.

Sexual Content

Tracy's blood mom conceived her out of wedlock, and Tracy's blood father (as opposed to Bob, her adopted father) had a wife in America as well as a child too when he slept with Tracy's blood mom.

During the Vietnam war many South Vietnamese women became prostitutes because they simply had no way of providing for themselves otherwise, especially if their husbands were fighting or dead. Whether Tracy's blood mom was an "official" prostitute is left up to debate.

Tracy's (adopted) mom takes her to buy her some bras, as Tracy is starting puberty.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

Stargazer's dad calls Bob "baby-killer," although not to his face.


Aside from my annoyance at Tracy's and Stargazer's utterly uncalled for invasion of Bob's painful life as a soldier in Vietnam, and Tracy's unfortunate praying to (we as Christians know) nonexistent Quan Am and dead ancestors, this book was quite a fresh read: readers can get a tiny glimpse of how the Vietnam War affected millions of lives of both Americans and Vietnamese.

Fun Score: 3.5
Values Score: 3
Written for Age: 13+

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