Price of Duty

192p. S. & S. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481497091. POP
Gr 8 Up—Returning to his hometown for convalescence before heading off to a military hospital for more therapy, Jake Liddell is welcomed as a hero. But he doesn't feel like one. Despite his missing fingers and several bullet and shrapnel wounds, his physical injuries are relatively minor compared to those of some buddies who are missing limbs or dead. A candidate for the Silver Star, Jake is praised wherever he goes. But the real damage he's endured can't be seen. Jake knows his sweetheart, Aurora, must realize he's "not the same person" due to post-traumatic stress disorder. Compounding matters, Jake has to navigate the tension between his widowed father, a military officer who has never seen combat, and his maternal grandfather, a retired Army general and decorated Vietnam War veteran. Should he continue to seek therapy and return to finish his deployment, or take a stand against deceptive recruiters and what he's come to see as an insane war, potentially bringing shame on his family? Strasser packs a lot of narrative into a short novel, but never wanders far from a tightly wound and compelling story. Much of the dialogue between soldiers in combat scenes is dense with military terminology, but the author fluidly defines acronyms and slang in context. While the reading level and dynamic plot are suited to reluctant readers, descriptions of extreme violence, drug use, suicide, some rough language, and a significant moral quandary makes the novel more appropriate for an older middle school and high school audience.
VERDICT Highly recommended.

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