PAPER TRAIL by Barbara Snow Gilbert


Age Range: 11 - 15
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An Oklahoma teenager sees his mother gunned down, then becomes the quarry of a militia group in this page-turner-with-a-twist. Hidden in a log, Walker hears the shot and the falling body, peers through a knothole to see the corpse and the armed men who come to haul it away, then sets off, numbly but cautiously, through the Oklahoma woods toward the nearest town. Gilbert (Broken Chords, 1998) fills in the back story as he goes, but the life that Walker has made for himself over the ten years since he and his parents moved into the remote area has gone glimmering in the wake of his father David’s sudden revelation that he’s an undercover FBI agent sent to infiltrate the local “Soldiers of God.” Cover blown, the family had split up in an effort to escape—so where is David? Alive or also dead? The author tumbles together short chapters of current action with flashbacks and actual, ominous passages from recent books and articles about the militia movement, cranking up the suspense as Walker is injured, recaptured, then escapes, rescuing his father along the way. And then, Walker’s entire heroic flight is revealed as a trauma-induced hallucination, spun out over days of semi-comatose reaction to his mother’s murder. By the end, months after at least some of the Soldiers of God have been rounded up, he is just beginning to heal, and to forgive his dad. Focusing most closely on Walker’s mental state, the author only sketches out the individual characters of his captors (many of whom are neighbors or schoolmates), leaving a more distinct impression of their rhetoric and capacity for violence than their motivations. Still, readers will be hooked by the intensity of this nightmarish psychodrama. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: May 31st, 2000
ISBN: 1-886910-11-1
Page count: 168pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2000


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