Monday, August 1, 2011

When the Lights Go Out

When the Lights Go Out, by Max Elliot Anderson, is an adventure story geared specifically for reluctant readers. While their families are stationed at an army base, three boys—Peyton, Gill, and Dave—become friends. The boys discover an old obstacle course and decide to train to be Rangers, an elite group of combat soldiers. The idea comes from Peyton, whose hero (and dad) is the base commander and a Ranger. As Peyton leads the boys through exercise after exercise, they build camaraderie, skill, and trust.

Although done in good fun, the boys’ training soon turns earnest when they stumble across an odd phone conversation and suspicious-acting men. The boys begin to doubt the safety of the base. After more investigation, the boys are convinced they have uncovered a terrorist plot. Unable to communicate their concerns with Peyton’s dad, the boys try on their own to find a way to stop a secret weapon from falling into enemy hands. The tension spikes when the power is cut and all the lights on base go out.

The author ties the story to the tragic events that occurred on 9/11 in two places. In the beginning, Peyton’s dad explains that he joined the army after 9/11 because “somebody’s gotta help keep the country safe.” In the last chapter, Dave says that every year around 9/11, his dad (an army chaplain) preaches a sermon called Never Forget. However, Dave does not elaborate very much on what the sermon is about nor on how it impacts his life.

The book includes a helpful glossary of military terms.

What I Like: With an army base setting and Ranger training, the book has excellent "boy" appeal. I also liked how the boys worked together and encouraged each other. Plus, the author captured the action with almost movie-snippet pacing. Overall, it was a clean, age-appropriate adventure.

What I Dislike: I was distracted from the story by numerous punctuation (over two dozen) and spelling errors. I also felt the Christian aspect wasn't integrated into the story very well. There was no reference to God or faith (other than one character's dad being a chaplain) until a sermon is mentioned in last chapter. In the half page exchange, one of the boys ridicules the other over the sermon and then the topic is dropped. I also was disappointed that Peyton didn't notify an adult about the danger because he didn't want to get in trouble. Finally, I think it's a little pricey for a paperback. Most books this size sell for around five dollars.

Overall Rating: Despite the objections mentioned above, the story was actually an okay read. Very Good.

Age Appeal: 9-12

Publisher Info: Comfort Publishing, 2011; ISBN:978-1936695478; Paperback, 172 PGS., $13.99

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Special Info: Read another CCBR review of a book by Max Elliot Anderson.

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Comfortpub said...

As a representative of Comfort Publishing, I would first like to thank you for posting your review of this book! We certainly appreciate the kudos, as well as the critisisms.

I would, however, like to point out that, as you mention at the bottom of this page, you received an advance review copy of this book, which is to say that your copy had not yet undergone final edits before being sent to press for market. Therefore, grammatical errors are common in these copies and do not reflect the final product. I can assure your readers that the final copies (now available for sale) have been corrected. Thank you.

Lori Z. Scott said...

Thank you! Good to know. I had checked to see if the book was labeled as an advanced copy, but it was not. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding.