Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review: "The Fort" by Aric Davis

It's the summer of 1987, and 12-year-old childhood friends Tim, Luke, and Scott are spending their time in their newly built fort in the woods, trying to shoot at targets with their air rifles and pretending they're fighting the Vietnamese. But even the idyllic, lazy summer can't keep their problems totally at bay, especially for Luke, who is struggling with having to be the responsible one to care for his mother and younger sisters.

One night, Tim's older sister Becca comes home from the drive-in, where she was hanging out with her friends. Or was she?

Something happened that night, and her friend Molly was kidnapped. Everyone fears the worst. And then one day, while playing in the fort with a .22 stolen from Scott's stepfather, the boys see something incredible—a girl who looked like Molly was being pushed through the woods by a man holding a gun. Luke shoots the kidnapper in the leg, but he is able to escape. And yet, when the boys tell the police what they saw, they're called liars by the police and their families, who ground them for the remainder of the summer and forbid the boys to see each other.

Regardless of the consequences, the boys know what they saw, and are determined to find the kidnapper, save Molly, and prove everyone wrong. They don't realize that in addition to parents and police detectives that don't believe them, they're up against a Vietnam veteran who is rapidly becoming unhinged. But they embark on a secret mission to uncover the truth, sneaking out late at night, and counting on bravery they never knew they had.

I thought this was a really great book, full of the nostalgic feelings of youth and childhood friendship. It's refreshing to have a "coming of age" novel that doesn't deal with kids' sexual awakening, but rather the struggles of growing up and trying to rise above the problems that weigh you down. The book works best when it focuses on the boys' stories and their mission to find Molly's kidnapper; the kidnapper's story veered a little too much into cliché, territory we've seen so many times before.

I've seen a lot of reviews that have said this book reminds them of Stand By Me, and I can see that. There may be nothing surprising in the book, but Aric Davis does a great job telling the story and getting you invested in the boys' lives, that even as you know what's going to happen you still want to keep reading. This was tremendously enjoyable, well-told, and memorable.

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