160 pages; published February 2012
Ben Bright is a stand-out kid. When he makes the unexpected decision to join the Army instead of going to college after high school, his family, best friend, and girlfriend try to be supportive. Their resolve is put to the ultimate test when Ben is injured in Iraq and returns stateside with a traumatic brain injury that shatters his memory and changes him on a fundamental level.
Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis explore in fairly simple terms how the people in Ben’s life are impacted by his decision to join the Army and the injury that follows. Aside from one vivid scene actually in Iraq, the story focuses on the folks at home – Ben’s parents who are nearly torn apart by the tragedy, Ben’s autistic brother who finds his own way to absorb the loss, the girlfriend who begins to question her commitment, and the best friend who finds himself burdened with heavy responsibilities. Everyone is allowed some very human moments where they do not behave well, but the situation is somewhat idealized. There is nothing really painful or violent about the story, making it perhaps a good choice for younger readers who may be fascinated by war without considering the possible downsides.