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by Pat Hughes

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 2003
ISBN: 0-374-32811-0
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

All Matt Howard wants to do is farm his father’s land, but the Civil War in Missouri has stirred up forces beyond his control. Southern bushwhackers are fighting Northern jayhawkers, and Federal troops are enmeshed in the chaos. Staying neutral is difficult for Matt; his best friend Jesse is a guerrilla fighter for the Secesh, and his mother wants to return to her family in the North. Showing loyalty to either side is dangerous, and in a modern anti-war sentiment, Matt realizes that either way—Union or Secesh—war kills children, destroys families, and spawns refugees. The best Matt can do is follow his father’s advice to rely on himself and trust his own judgment, and the whole story plays out his one decision: to leave or stay. Newcomer Hughes, after a fair amount of explaining the historical context early in the narrative, keeps her focus particular, though perhaps too small for Civil War buffs looking for a larger panorama. Those sticking with it, though, will get a fresh, in-depth lesson on the nature of war, along with a surprise about Jesse’s identity. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12+)