From award-winning author Todd Strasser comes a gripping new novel that explores the struggles of war, the price paid by those who fight in them, and what it really means to be a hero.
Jake Liddell is a hero.
At least, that’s what everyone says he is. The military is even awarding him a Silver Star for his heroic achievements—a huge honor for the son of a military family. Now he’s home, recovering from an injury, but it seems the war has followed him back. He needs pills to get any sleep, a young woman is trying to persuade him into speaking out against military recruitment tactics, and his grandfather is already urging him back onto the battlefield. He doesn’t know what to do; nothing makes sense anymore.
There is only one thing that Jake knows for certain: he is no hero.--from the publisher
192 pages 978-1481497091 Ages 12-17
“And there’s just a few things I ain’t got sorted outSometimes they make my brain get soreLike if kids were left to their own devicesWould they ever come up with a thing like war”-- Todd Rundgren, “The Wheel” (1975)“Join the Army; travel to exotic distant lands; meet exciting, unusual people and kill them.”-- early Seventies poster on my bedroom wall during high school“‘Oh my God, are you okay?’ Lori’s eyes are wide. She’s wearing the baggy T-shirt she sleeps in.‘Yeah.’ I start to breathe easier, but my heart is still beating at speed-metal tempo. I was dreaming I was back at the ambush. On the roof, while the firefight continued on the street below. I was on my back, eyes blinded by the glaring sunlight. I tried to roll over but couldn’t. It felt like my body armor was bolted to the roof. A shadow moved over me--that insurgent wearing loose clothes and a cap. He was aiming his AK down at me, point-blank. My hands were sliding all over on the sandy rooftop as I desperately felt for a weapon or anything to protect myself with. But there was nothing. I was trapped on my back and he was closing in. The dark tunnel of the AK’s barrel growing larger and larger.‘You were yelling so loud. I’ve never heard anything like it. I kept shaking you, but you wouldn’t wake up.’ Lori gives me a penetrating look, asking with her eyes what could have possibly happened over there that would result in such a violent dream. Of course, I’ve never told her about the really bad stuff. To talk about it is to relive it. To relive it is to refeel it. And I never want to feel anything like it again.With the corner of the T-shirt, she wipes some sweat off my forehead. We sit for a while in silence. Finally, she says, ‘I know you don’t want to talk about it, but if you ever change your mind…’‘Thanks.’She kisses me on the forehead and gets up, switching off the light as she leaves. I lie in bed, staring up into the dark, my heart gradually decelerating. At FOB Choke Point they gave us pills fornight terrors. When I got to Landstuhl in Germany, I tried to stop taking them, but my nightly yelling woke the other patients on the ward. So I started again. Here at home I thought maybe being in safe, familiar surroundings might make a difference. I haven’t taken a pill for the past three days, and tonight’s the first time I’ve had the terrors. So maybe I’m getting better. Maybe I’ll be one of the lucky ones.”In PRICE OF DUTY, author Todd Strasser shows the reality of serving in and surviving today’s volunteer army. This contemporary YA tale is told from the point of view of Jake Liddell, who has returned to America a war hero. He’s missing one and a third of his fingers, has undergone multiple surgeries, and is on crutches, but that’s all secondary to what the experience of war has done to his psyche. Beginning with a hero’s welcome, PRICE OF DUTY takes place during a single week when Jake returns to his hometown from the war. But he hasn’t yet completed his required time in the military. Incredibly, Jake will be required to leave at the end of the week, first to undergo physical rehabilitation, and then to return to active duty.Jake is a survivor. He has, so far, survived becoming the pile of meat and bones and splattered brains that has been the fate of many close friends. Chewed up physically and suffering mentally from what he’s had to do, Jake is contemplating a rebellion. He’s thinking of foregoing the Silver Star medal for which he’s being considered and refusing to return to combat, which would shamehis grandfather, a well-known retired general. It’s difficult to imagine this young man readily transitioning to a normal, American, go-to-work-every-day, get-married, raise-a-family life. It makes me realize how essential the VA is. I appreciate what the story reveals about sophisticated and unscrupulous military recruitment techniques that are used to con high school kids into enlisting. Those who suspect that shooter-based video games are desensitizing younger generations and that signing up in the military will seem an exciting and lucrative prospect to struggling students will find their fears realized. I also applaud the stunning revelations about the manner in which potent drugs are handed out to soldiers like M&Ms in order to keep them fighting despite what they’ve experienced. After reading PRICE OF DUTY, I’ve spent days thinking about war, about Jake, and about the epigraph of this book:“War does not determine who is right -- only who is left.” -- Bertrand Russell As we learn, America has managed to be involved in some war somewhere for all but 17 of the past 240 years. This is a life-and-death issue affecting adolescents that’s not going away any time soon.PRICE OF DUTY is a hard-hitting, thought-provoking, page turner that could change the lives of young readers. Encourage them to put down their video game controllers and pick up this book.
192 pages 978-1-4814-9709-1 Ages 12 and up
Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA
See more of his recommendations: http://richiespicks.pbworks.com