March 16, 2010

Book Review: The Long Way Home

The highly anticipated book review I promised is finally here!

Andrew Klavan's The Long Way Home

This is the second in Klavan's "Homelanders" series. The series is Young Adult fiction, centering on 18-year-old Charlie West. Charlie is intensely patriotic, Christian, loyal, always wanting to do the right thing, skilled in karate, honest - he's the guy you want your daughter to date. Someone you can trust would protect her, even from himself.

In the first novel in the series, "The Last Thing I Remember," Charlie goes to bed one night on top of the world - nice family, finally getting attention from the girl in school he likes, a bright future ahead of him, with dreams of becoming an Air Force fighter pilot and serving his country.

When he wakes up, he's tied to a chair in the middle of a dark room. It's 1 year later. He's being interrogated by (what he comes to realize is) a terrorist organization. He escapes from the group, called the Homelanders, only to find that out in the world, he is wanted for murder - for the murder of his best friend, Alex. His family has moved. He is alone and on the run, both from the "good guys" - the police, and the "bad guys" - the terrorists. He has no memory of the missing year.

In this second novel, The Long Way Home, Charlie is still running, but is now trying to figure out who killed Alex, and to discover if, since he can't remember, is it possible he really did kill his best friend? Are the things people are telling him true: that he's a murderer and perhaps even a terrorist himself? Why can't he remember the last year of his life?

These books are my first experience with Klavan's fiction. I've read his blogs and enjoy his Pajamas Media satirical videos. And when I heard this series was coming out (starting last fall) I jumped right on them. I have started getting into YA fiction, first Twilight and then the Uglies series. So that's all I have to compare this series to. So, please bear with me.

I love Charlie West. He is just one of those characters you admire.His love interest, Beth, is also a character that draws you in. You want her to be your best friend.

The plot is compelling. Why can't he remember the last year? Why would anyone think Charlie West of all people is a murderer? And why on earth are terrorists after him? All of these questions keep you wanting to read more. Thankfully, unlike LOST, we're actually getting some answers in addition to the questions! :)

I especially appreciate the way Klavan (via Charlie) sees the world in black-and-white. The good guys are the good guys. The bad guys are the bad guys. There are no moral gray areas. Murder is still murder. Lies are still lies. And Charlie isn't willing to compromise his deeply held beliefs, even if it means making life easier for him.

Klavan's style is - not simple - but plain, easy to read, which I like in fiction. Don't get me wrong; there's nothing shallow here. Charlie and the readers are faced with some serious moral and ethical questions throughout the story - like, how can he really know what right and wrong are? Aren't those just cultural concepts that vary over time and geography? And sometimes, don't you have to do what you might normally not for the "greater good," if there is such a thing?

The only fault I can possibly find in this novel is that it felt like it could have been combined with the first into one single installment. Obviously, there is a reason they are two different books, and it's not that big of a deal, anyway. Also, compared with the other YA books I've read recently, the teens in this version - with the exceptions of Charlie and Beth - seem a little too immature sometimes. Sometimes the dialogue among the teens seems to sound more like 13 year olds than 18 years olds. However, my experience with teenage boys is pretty dated, so maybe that's how teenage boys sound today. I couldn't say.

In the end, I really recommend this series. There's action, drama, romance, all the major high points in fiction. I don't know how many more installments there will be, but I do know the next one comes out this fall (or late summer, somewhere in there). So if you're looking for a good book to take on a plane or to the pool, this is what you're looking for.


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