A young man serves in a secret unit during the Vietnam War.
Danny Manion is an impulsive hothead, one who brawls with his brothers even though he knows it disappoints his polio survivor father. After he steals a motorcycle, his wrestling coach and idol, Mr. Macias, arranges with the judge for Danny to join the Army, with Mr. Macias as his colonel. But instead of serving in a noncombat position in Thailand like he tells his father, Danny is actually part of a special ops unit illegally fighting in Laos. Through injuries and missions gone wrong, Danny grows and learns from his colonel and his fellow soldiers—even though they all come across like teen sociopaths, with statements like “Truth is, there are no rules here. It’s glorious,” and “We’re here to kill everything.” Danny exhibits more concern about a fellow soldier shooting an elephant than about killing people, and the Meo characters who help their unit aren't even called by their proper names. With the violent nature of war as depicted, the overall slimness of the novel, and without any historical notes to provide context, Danny’s story feels underdeveloped and overly simplistic even for younger teens. Danny and his family are white; his close friend and fellow soldier is named Lopez.
Too short to allow for any real character development or complex moral thought; don’t recruit this one for your library. (Historical fiction. 12-14)