In this debut thriller, an unlikely group of heroes tries to avert a nuclear war during a coup in the United States.
Fourteen-year-old Thomas lives near Ann Arbor, Michigan. One night, his large red dog, Elmo, wakes him from a sound sleep by gnawing on his leg. Elmo then drags Thomas downstairs, where he discovers his home trashed, with furniture overturned and papers scattered everywhere. His parents are also missing. Worsening the nightmare, Thomas finds a dying man on the living room floor who says not to get the police but “get to Ann Arbor. Find Jacob.” Jacob is the brother of the boy’s father. Before expiring, the stranger tells Thomas to open the safe in his parents’ room. Inside is a large yellow envelope; he runs with it to the apartment of his friend Veronica’s father. Mr. Davis is away on business, but when Thomas eventually meets Veronica, she says that her mother never picked her up from school. Just then, a trio of menacing men approaches from the elevators. The teens and Elmo escape down the fire escape and drive off in Mr. Davis’ car. Inside the envelope is a package of technical schematics that only confuses them more. When they reach a rest stop, they encounter the three men again. This time, a tranquilizer gun prevents the kids from running. Though Shurtliff keeps readers guessing at the focus of his adrenaline-fueled tale, it is clear that Thomas and Veronica are at the center of nothing less than a conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. The aggressively backfilled plot includes operation Enduring Freedom, which can collect, analyze, and manipulate information on a global scale from 11 control centers in the Midwestern U.S. Naturally, a shadow operation—run by brilliant rogue Reginald Gibion—takes Enduring Freedom’s potential for thwarting terror and twists it against the nation’s integrity. Shurtliff hopes to please both YA and adult audiences (he includes cyborgs and a secret formula to make nukes less deadly), but the result is chaotically paced and glosses over much of the fallout from an extraordinarily high-stakes story.
An entertaining, if sometimes frustrating, tale about the worst- and best-case scenarios facing America.