Divided We Fall

18114594

Author: Trent Reedy

Publication: 2014, Scholastic

Pages: 374

Overall Rating:

Rating for Action:

Quantity of Action:

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Danny Wright is 17 and a private in the Idaho National Guard.  When he first joined up, he’d expected nothing more than a summer of basic training and a few weekends at the armory while he finished senior year – a chance to serve his country and earn a little money for community college.  But all that changes when his unit is deployed to help quell a riot in Boise.  Amid the chaos, Danny accidentally fires a shot from his rifle.  It triggers a panic that ends with a dozen people dead and contributes to a stand-off between Idaho and the rest of the country.  Soon Danny finds himself torn between two loyalties – the oath he swore to his country and the oath he swore to the state of Idaho.  With tensions rising on both sides which will he choose, and how will he and his friends survive the coming war?

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Reedy has created a solid cast of characters, led by Danny.  His passions are muscle cars, rodeo, football, and guns.  He hates school, rarely reads, and wants to get married young and settle down in his hometown to run a garage.  All in all, he’s a boy I would normally have nothing in common with.  Yet under Reedy’s deft hands I found myself sucked into Danny’s world, able to see things from his perspective, to care about the things that gave meaning to his life.  And really, what more can you ask for in a writer?

Another touch I truly appreciated was that Reedy ends each chapter with a mix of different tweets, radio/TV snippets, and website comments on Danny, the president, and the unfolding situation in Idaho.  They always cross the political spectrum and helped give the story a deeper sense of context and a window into how the larger world was interpreting the events that I only saw playing out through Danny’s eyes.

What I Liked the Least: A lot of the story hinges on the political conflict between President Rodriguez and Idaho governor, James Montaine.  Unfortunately, while Montaine gets a lot of play in the book and is portrayed as a very reasonable, honorable, and charismatic figure, Rodriguez generally comes off as cold, distant, and inflexible.  We hear Montaine’s ideas and opinions in detail, and generally straight from his mouth, while the information coming from Rodriguez is often second-hand, picked up in snippets at the end of each chapter, or in brief, dispassionate speeches.  This makes sense to a certain extent, of course.  Danny belongs to the Idaho National Guard and is fighting to protect his state.  We have to believe in his stance and what the state of Idaho is trying to do.  But it also came off as a very one-sided argument that helped simplify Danny’s view of the cold, faceless “Fed” as the enemy.  Somehow, I would have appreciated a more nuanced approach that forced Danny to really grapple with the very real debate over state’s rights versus federal power that lies at the heart of this book.

How Good was the Action? In a word, awesome.  Reedy did in fact serve in the Iowa National Guard and did a tour in Afghanistan as a combat engineer.  His descriptions of army life are incredibly realistic and the action scenes are tense, bloody, frightening, and fast.  There is an over the top car chase early in the book that is only beat out by one near the end, replete with flying bullets, Humvees, razor wire and a high speed jump.  But Reedy balances the action with Danny’s very real emotional reactions to everything that he’s done.  Danny kills people, sometimes indirectly and other times directly.  And each time, it packs a serious emotional punch that haunts him long after the event and makes the action that much more real.

How Engaging was the Story? It grabbed me right from the start and never let go.  Danny is such a powerful character, and the conflict he finds himself caught up in is so all encompassing – and so real, so possible – that I couldn’t help getting drawn into the story.  I may not have agreed with what Idaho was doing, or with Danny’s choices, but that’s the hallmark of a great story.  Reedy forced me to think about an uncomfortable scenario, to wonder which side I would take and what I would do, and then to follow along as his character made choices of their own and had to live with the very real consequences.  At its heart, whether you wind up agreeing with Danny and his friends are calling them traitors, this is very much a book about democracy and what it means to be an American.   

Profanity: Yes.  Reedy’s characters are a bunch of rowdy teens and he doesn’t hold back on the language.

Sex: Yes.  There’s plenty of kissing and hints of a whole lot more.  They also drink A LOT, especially beer, and their parties get pretty wild.

Violence: Absolutely.  The fist fights are fast and bloody and since this is a war book people do get shot.  And when they do, Reedy doesn’t pull any punches.  It’s a bloody mess and the images will stay with Danny, and you, long after the smoke has cleared.

Comments

  1. Gordon Rottman says:

    This sounds like a most interesting book. There are by the way two more titles in the Divided We Fall series, “Burning Nation” and “The Last Full Measure.”

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