DeMitchell’s YA historical novel is based on American Revolutionary Paul Revere’s legendary ride to Portsmouth, N.H.
When Revere set out to warn the citizens of Portsmouth, N.H., that British regulars were already on their way to Fort William and Mary on New Castle Island to seize the store of gunpowder, many in New Hampshire and Massachusetts immediately responded by taking the fort and imprisoning its soldiers. However, the information was inaccurate. DeMitchell tells the story through the eyes of two young boys, 14-year-old Andrew Becket and 13-year-old John Cochran, set on opposite sides of the conflict as misunderstandings compound and eventually lead to violence. DeMitchell states most of the characters, save for Beckett and the supporting character Joseph Reed, are based on actual people, though the account is fictionalized. Whatever liberties she might have taken with the history, DeMitchell has a talent for the small details that result in a vivid story. Readers feel the rush of the icy Piscataqua River as Beckett tries not to fall off the edge of a barge full of people and the strain of physical work. The story also avoids easy characterizations of heroes and villains; Beckett and Cochran are simply kids trapped in extraordinary circumstances. Gov. Wentworth could easily have been the scapegoat as a native New Hampshire man taking orders from the crown, but he comes across fully rounded. He, too, is trapped as he tries to stay loyal to the king while avoiding violence and advancing free trade in the colonies. DeMitchell’s aim is to provoke thought about the incidents that led to war. Beckett and Cochran feel like real people with real needs rather than handy political constructs or symbols: Beckett wants to avoid conflict and concentrate on bettering himself to get into Harvard, while Cochran feels loyalty to the crown through his father’s position in charge of the defense of Fort William and Mary.
A worthwhile read that personalizes the conflicts that led to the American Revolution.