I've been meaning to post this review for some time but real life, as always, is a priority over internet life and things are crazy in our neck of the woods these days. Alas, I actually got through a book in the midst of a lot of madness and rambunctious toddler, and I consider that a feat all its own. ;)
Note: I was provided an advance copy of this book for review and was not provided any sort of compensation. All opinions are my own!
With movies in recent years focusing on the the actions of various U.S. Special Forces teams, it's no surprise that the book market is filled with many memoirs about time spent in the career field. Even when a former military member isn't writing their own story, there is no shortage of reading material available on the subject. However, one doesn't often see these types of books written for the Young Adult (YA) crowd. Brandon Webb's book, The Making of a Navy SEAL, finally remedies that.
The book is Webb's memoir on his journey to becoming a SEAL, getting through some of the most challenging courses our military has to offer, and then eventually revamping training curriculum and instructing individuals such as Chris Kyle (American Sniper) and Marcus Luttrell (The Lone Survivor) at sniper school.
I enjoyed his recollections about being a bit of a tenacious (sometimes to a fault) kid. He ended up getting kicked out of his family's home (well, off their family boat) at 16 and made it on his own from there. He set a goal to become a SEAL, worked hard, and proved that no matter where you come from you can make your dreams a reality if you believe in yourself.
The chapters on his SEAL training were engaging. I appreciated how he was real and rather than claim he blew everyone out of the water, he admits that he was "the guy" everyday dragging down his classmates and doing extra sets/reps of everything. The key takeaway from all of his intense training was that he wasn't willing to give up. His dream meant more to him than anything instructors could put him through and he had the mental resolve to push through the hardest moments.
It was interesting, too, to read about his combat experiences. There were two standout moments for me--the USS Cole and the crying baby (no more details, you'll have to read it yourself!). It highlighted that war is a real, terrible thing and that even when you are trained to be a "killing machine," there is still a very human component to everything you do. I think it's important, especially for young adults, to realize that in the age of so much violence in media and video games, it's never a fun thing or a game to have to kill another human being especially when not doing so means the death of those you care about or even yourself.
I thought the lessons he highlighted and shared were particularly good for a younger audience. They were motivating, realistic and not too "preachy." Importantly, he shared how he made mistakes along the way, from his youth and even as a SEAL. He was real and I think it's something young people can respect and appreciate. Two of my favorite quotes were:
- "Adversity is actually an opportunity to learn and grow as a person."
- "When life is hard, remember that tough times will eventually end. And, remember, too, that the best things in life take hard work and determination to complete."
The only thing I didn't really enjoy was the last section of the book wherein he shared the story of a boss with whom he did not get along. I think the fact that he showed he wasn't afraid to hold a superior accountable for failures was admirable. I also think that it was commendable that he did his homework, so to speak, and made sure he had as many facts as possible to back up his argument to his commanding officer. However, what turned me off was it felt too much like a personal vendetta against one individual. While I understand his feelings from an adult perspective, particularly working in military environments in the past, naming the individual and railing about him personally for more pages than nearly any other section got old fast and felt a little catty. I feel like he could have achieved the same end without calling the guy out in the book and taking a bit more of the "high road" approach.
Overall, though, I thought the book was a super easy read and brings somewhat of an elevated topic to an accessible level for the YA audience. It's inspiring and motivating to be given the hope that anything is possible if you want it hard enough. Life may not always follow your planned trajectory, but if you keep your eyes on the prize and endure life's curve balls, you can absolutely become the best version of yourself.