Getting involved with an ex-Marine in war-focused Halo, Montana, is no picnic, especially for a teenage girl who needs to participate in a community-service Help a Vet program in order to graduate.
Twyla Jane Lee and her boyfriend, Billy Goodwin, become drawn into the magnificent mural that is being made by veteran Gabriel Finch out of ammunition casings. But soon they become aware that the artist is in “as many pieces as his mosaic” and that there is local controversy about what he may or may not have done while at war in the Middle East. With Gabriel’s permission, Twyla enters the artwork in a Museum of Modern Art contest in hopes that it will solve multiple problems. Berkhout spins an ambitious and sophisticated tale in an accessible first-person narrative that takes readers through Twyla’s coming-of-age decision-making, angst, and eventual acceptance of the limitations of the universe. She also sheds light on underrepresented slices of life—the military, isolated, largely white rural communities with limited economic opportunity, war photographers—and the hidden world of decommissioned missile silos and raises readers’ respect for the ancient literature and civilizations at the center of the world. If she can’t quite manage to keep all the balls in the air at once, she does demonstrate both passion and talent.
A rich and jumbled mix of war and peace by an author to watch. (Fiction. 14-18)