Realistic, believable, poignant, and uplifting, this new guy read by seasoned writers Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis will appeal to teen readers who have a father, brother, sister, mother, or friend in the military and to readers who have a family member who is deployed.
Ben Bright (the last name is so fitting!) is a senior in high school and loves acting in school plays, and he's talented -- so talented, in fact, that his drama teacher thinks he has a real chance on Broadway, but Ben feels a higher calling. He wants to join the military, to do what's right, to protect America and Americans. His family, best friend Niko and girlfriend Ariela are all against it, so he keeps it secret until right before he has to report.
As he says good-bye to Ariela at Penn Station, he gives her a diamond engagement ring -- he's borrowed money from his parents and worked to afford it. Ben ends up in Iraq and is only able to email home once in awhile. His emails are full of spelling mistakes -- he's trying to type at warp speed because each soldier only has a couple of minutes to send something to their families. It's a new strange world, but Ben likes it.
Ben is nicknamed Broadway once the other soldiers figure out he can sing. The company has the usual military repartee, joking with each other, teasing each other -- sometimes almost cruelly. Ben likes his new assignment and doesn't mind the duty. The soldiers are told to walk beside their vehicle as much as possible -- to let the neutrals – civilians -- see that they are "likeable" and "human." This is a war to win hearts and minds and the command wants the soldiers to look friendly.
Looking friendly also puts the soldiers out in the open and in danger. When their vehicle runs over a doll in the road, everything changes. The doll was an explosive and Ben is hurt.
His parents get that terrifying phone call -- the one that all parents dread. Their son was hit and medivaced out of the war zone. They have to be at Walter Reed (hospital) where he is being taken. Ariela leaves college to rush to Ben's bedside with Niko, Ben's best friend.
Ben has injuries that affected his brain. The doctors don't know if he'll speak again or if his memory will come back. Ariela is noticeably frightened and a bit sickened by her boyfriend's appearance. How will Ariela cope if her boyfriend is never the same? Will Ben recover from his injuries? He can't even say his name -- what if he can never communicate?
This book will speak to those families who have endured a loved one at war or who have battled through a combat injury.
Recommended grades 9-up. Mature situations, graphic details about the explosion. Grade 8 students may be able to handle this novel, but for most middle school collections, it may be questionable.
Recommended by Pamela Thompson, MLIS, Library Media Specialist, Texas, USA
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