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by M.E. Kerr

Age Range: 12 - 15

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-029481-7
Publisher: HarperCollins

In a small Pennsylvania town during WWII, Kerr (What Became of Her, 2000, etc.) demonstrates her command of time, place, and atmosphere in this tale about the effect a young man’s decision has on his family and the community at large when he decides to become a conscientious objector. It’s a subject that is rarely examined, and although the story is light on drama and heavy on talk, Kerr’s scrutiny of the various issues is thoughtful and fair-minded. When Jubal Shoemaker is 13, his older brother Bud, a devout Quaker with “a self righteous streak” leaves the family to work in a Civilian Public Service camp rather than joining the military. Although several Quakers in the community join the service as noncombatants, Bud is the only one who eschews the armed forces all together. As more and more young men go off to fight and die, Bud’s choice becomes an embarrassment to Jubal’s father, a proud business owner. Customers drop away and his ambivalence and anger causes a rift in his marriage and a breakdown of his spirit. Jubal, however, sees Bud’s actions as essentially moral and courageous and wonders if he’ll have the guts to emulate him when his time comes. His heart is further pulled when he develops a secret quasi-romantic relationship with the daughter of a jingoistic radio host whose sons are soldiers. The surprise ending strains credibility as it tries to have it both ways, and the story concludes on an odd melancholy note. Nevertheless, this is engrossing and thought-provoking. (Fiction. 12-15)