In his nightmares, high-school senior Morris sees “torn flesh and burned flesh and the end of everything we know, all dying there in the scorching jungle of Vietnam”; he and his friends die, and it’s his fault.
Ivan, Rudi, Beck and Morris have been friends since fourth grade. Now the war in Vietnam looms, and they pledge to not go voluntarily. But when Rudi receives his draft notice, they all sign up, each with a different branch of the military. Morris signs with the Navy, figuring he somehow can watch over his friends and keep them safe from the USS Boston, a heavy guided-missile cruiser. He later realizes he can’t, but it’s his “small crazy,” a belief that keeps him sane in the midst of war. Initiating a new series with this volume, Lynch offers something valuable: a very good war novel for a preteen and middle-school audience, with enough violence to be an honest portrayal of war, but without the sex and rough language that often keep such novels out of the hands of a ready audience. The story stays rooted in Morris’ first-person point of view, with flashbacks to develop characters, though Morris is the only one fully realized.
Morris is an innocent caught in the winds of war, and young readers will eagerly anticipate future installments in the series. (Historical fiction. 9-14)