A fraternal bond is stressed beyond the breaking point in this heartfelt, if initially slow-moving, coming-home story.
High school senior Chase Peterson, whose first name may or may not refer to the title, is determined to join the Marines after graduating high school. Never mind the offer of a track scholarship from an Iowa university, or the parental pleas to accept it. And never mind the increasingly disturbing behavior of his brother, Danny, a Marine Corps corporal who returned from Afghanistan with mental wounds vastly worse than his physical wounds. Chase intends to enlist when he turns 18 regardless of anything his friends and family say. The reason for his determination, though plausible, is withheld until the end of the book, which raises the question of how plausible it is that Chase hasn’t been pressed to reveal the reason earlier in the story. Perhaps to address this arguably significant problem, Schulteis has Chase pointing out that he didn’t mention it earlier because “no one has ever asked me straight up.” The folks who haven’t bothered to ask, Chase adds, include his track coach, his mother and father, his girlfriends and his best friend. Beyond that, there’s no debate about his pending decision to enlist, not to mention a debate about the virtuousness of the Afghan war itself, which robs the first two-thirds of the story of significantly greater tension. Otherwise, much of the plot is devoted to increasing concerns about Danny’s anger and drinking, as well as the usual high school angst involving boredom and romantic longings. Olga Gutierrez, the girl who gradually becomes the focus of Chase’s longings, is particularly compelling, and the eventual explanation of her brother’s death in war-related circumstances provides a poignant revelation during the prolonged, powerful denouement.
Genuinely compassionate and likely to resonate among families and young adults with loved ones in the service.