Combining gun-toting action with moral ambiguity, this first book in a YA trilogy, set in a just over the horizon future, starts with an all too believable clash between the state of Idaho and the Federal Government, that rapidly escalates into a military standoff. In the center of this is 17-year-old Danny Wright, a private in the Idaho National Guard whose accidental shot seems to precipitate the crisis.
Danny is a typical high school senior in Freedom Lake, Idaho, who enjoys football, partying and rodeo, and he is also intensely proud of being a soldier as his now-dead father was before him. Danny’s confusion and testosterone driven choices feel real, and make him an unusual and well-developed protagonist. Other characters, both teen and soldiers, however, feel rather interchangeable and generic.
Reedy (Words in the Dust, 2011) sets up an intriguingly complex situation, with both sides of the conflict given airtime through snippets of news reportage and social media, though the constitutional issues are explicated rather clunkily, and unnecessarily, through a school civics class. The book doesn’t fall definitively on either political side, but Danny, again unusually, is definitely on the conservative/libertarian end of the spectrum. His girlfriend, JoBell, is initially the mouthpiece for the liberal argument, though later becomes more layered
Danny faces several moral dilemmas with no easy choices, and there are real consequences for his decisions that he cannot always justify. Once the rather slow set up is complete, the pace of the action rattles along, ending with a cliffhanger that will leave teen readers excited for the next installment.