Reviewer Amy Lignor: Amy is the author of a historical fiction novel entitled The Heart of a Legend, and Mind Made, a work of science fiction. Presently, she is writing an adventure series set in the New York Public Library, as well as a teen fiction series, The Angel Chronicles. She is an avid traveler and has been fortunate to have journeyed across the USA, where she has met the most amazing people, who truly bring life and soul to her books. She lives in the Land of Enchantment (for now) with her gorgeous daughter, Shelby, her wonderful Mom, Mary, and the greatest friend and critic in the entire world - her dog, Reuben
Author: Lance Lee Noel
Did you ever see Stand By
Me? You know, that wonderful book about the group of boys
discovering the dead body in their small, unknown town? Every
part of that movie was fantastic (applause goes to Mr. King for
writing it in the first place.) Well, I must say, this book
reminded me so much of that movie that I absolutely fell in love with
it by page five.
Jared Millhouse is a ten-year-old boy who lives in the small town of Lone Jack, Missouri. Now, although the town is small, the historical significance of the place makes it a strange and wondrous world. A very long time ago, one of the bloodiest battles in the Civil War happened in this town. Here, the Blue and the Gray went crazy, killing the other side on sight as they each tried to gain ground in the War Between the States.
Jared lives with his father and grandfather on an old, weather-beaten farm that is falling apart. Grandpa has emphysema and Jared's dad is simply wasting away in a liquor bottle. He can barely be a father to young Jared anymore because his heart and soul are dying since the loss of his wife to ovarian cancer. Because of these issues, Jared is mostly on his own. He tries with all his might to cheer up his father. He even took up baseball - which he absolutely can't stand...and that's where our story begins. Sure enough it's the final game to go to the playoffs and a ball is hit to Jared out in right field. Jared's mouth goes dry and tears flood his eyes as he watches the ball soar over his glove and land in the dense trees and grass behind him. He dives into the grass looking for the ball, but instead finds a woman with gnarled hair, black circles under her eyes, and fingers like a witch, who screeches at Jared and disappears. Suffice to say, the ball game is lost and Jared's heart feels like its going to explode out of his chest. He rides his bike home, but its so far a distance that he stops at the cemetary outside of town.
Sirus, the groundskeeper of the cemetary, listens to Jared's strange tale about the woman "hovering" in the trees. The man's skin grows pale as he talks about having seen the souls himself - orbs that flicker in the air. He tells Jared that he believes the people who lost their lives in Lone Jack are still there and trying desperately to find a way out of the world and into "heaven." It's like they're stuck and have no idea how to move on...and up. Now everyone in town believes that Sirus is simply an old man losing his mind, but Sirus believes that when people grow older they can see things like ghosts and souls because they are moving closer to the grave themselves. (I loved and completely agreed with that part. We tend to "label" the older generation when they are way smarter than the rest of us.)
On we go to Jared's house as he tries to tell what he's seen. Yet again, there is so much depression and lifelessness in his own home, that no one can understand the ridiculous fantasies of a young man. Many children - friends and non-friends of Jared - begin to enter the story, and this is what reminds me of Mr. King's imaginative tale. The kids in this book are called names like Shanks, Suds, and Porker. When Jared is asked by Suds to become part of their group - the Crossroads Gang - the other boys scream that Jared must go through an initiation to become one of them. Jared goes into a lonely, dark cave and ends up finding a gold star buried deep within the old mine. Sure enough, after that find, ghosts of every sort come after him screaming at Jared to give them "the key."
I won't give away this story because I want all of you to read it. This is yet another YA that is also perfect for adults who want to venture into the past and enjoy a roller-coaster ride of fun. You will not remember enjoying anything quite so much; you will sit down and go into a world that offers historical battles, a haunted baseball diamond, and fields that are intensely quiet - that only the departed inhabit. The story is completely fascinating and a whole lot of fun. I've been to the battlefields at Gettysburg, and I was always amazed at how quiet they were. After all, they were a huge tourist destination and there were cars and busloads of visitors everywhere. Yet, when you walked those fields, it was like the ghosts of the soldiers were speaking to you, telling you what went on. The author of Lone Jack does a fantastic job with the writing of situations such as this. I was immediately transported back in time to a field that I had walked as a child, listening to the ghosts of the past.
Congratulations Lance Lee Noel! I can't wait to read more.