Good intentions go horribly wrong when American soldiers dropping off donations at an Afghanistan orphanage are viciously attacked.
She was the one who organized the donation project, Operation Oleander, collecting money and school supplies on the Florida Army base where her family lives while her father is deployed to Afghanistan. With the somewhat reluctant help of the base commander’s son, Sam, and her best friend, Meriwether, she ran the volunteer operation. Jess’ father was seriously injured in the attack, but even worse, Meriwether’s mother was killed, along with several orphans. Now Jess has to deal with her own grief and concern over her father’s condition, as well as rejection by Meriwether, who blames her for what has happened. In her debut, Patterson uses attractively descriptive language to spin her tale; unfortunately, it often feels more like the author’s perspective than the authentic thoughts of this rising high school freshman: “My voice is tight, taut as Sam’s sailboat rope when the wind pushed the mainsail.” While other characters are largely predictable and lightly sketched, their shortcomings are less critical to the believability of the story than Jess’ imperfect inner voice, as she ultimately finds a way to cope with the tragedy.
Although it deals with an important topic, this effort fails to fully live up to its potential. (Fiction. 10-14)