Andi’s home life is…complicated. Her mother is unstable and emotionally abusive, her father has disengaged, and Andi’s younger sister has taken on the role of protector. Eager to leave as soon as she’s out of high school, Andi applies to the United States Military Academy (West Point), where she can trade a few years of service after graduation for a free education. The best part–she can do the whole thing far away from home.
Of course, military training offers its own share of abuse. Battle Dress follows Andi through the six week basic training program, or Beast. Her commanding officers are harsh and demanding, and the training itself can be gruelling, including strict regulations on everything from her haircut to how she tells the table what’s in the drink pitcher, high stakes problem solving exercises, and even a visit to the gas tent. Andi struggles, and at times questions whether West Point is where she belongs after all. She’s facing things with a team now, though, and with their friendship–and the opportunity to distinguish herself on the athletic fields–she discovers the beginnings of an unexpected strength within herself.
Battle Dress is based in part on the experiences of the author, and offers fascinating insight into the experience of military training. That said, the story is at least as much about Andi’s growth as it is about military life per se, and should appeal broadly to readers interested in stories about facing personal challenges. Though fairly static, Andi’s teammates are all well-developed, likeable characters, and Andi herself is very relatable.
Take a virtual tour of West Point to get a feel for the setting of Battle Dress.