“We came to Costa Verdes to build a wall. I just wish I could tell you that all of us made it home alive.”
Members of a church-group mission to rebuild a school in a Central American nation find their flight home delayed by a violent revolution sweeping the countryside. Teenage Everyman Will Peterson narrates a struggle for survival alongside several stock characters (such as a sweet but shallow pretty girl, a well-meaning but out-of-touch youth pastor and an intellectual, professorial America-blaming idealist, Jim). Socialist-sympathizing Jim contrasts with pragmatic former U.S. Marine action hero Palmer. The transparency of Klavan’s political agenda is in part mitigated by an increasing focus on the emotional and spiritual lives of the more fleshed-out characters on their journey through jungles and captivity. Will, when he’s not trying too hard to be a typical teen so readers can identify with him, is thoughtful and self-possessed. Through a blooming mentor-mentee relationship, he learns the meaning of heroism. Background on the political situation between the rebels and the government (plus history of Cold War CIA involvement) is deployed as necessary, keeping the narration personal and immediate. The resolution suffers from a disappointing lack of denouement, especially considering how far the characters have come.
Fast-paced with multiple threats, genuine tension and lots of machine guns. (Adventure. 12-17)