Opening the Ball by Nathaniel Simpson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I read the the first few chapters I was hooked. I loved the concept and thoroughly enjoyed the US Civil War time period as the setting for the time travel sequences. It's not a historical period I'm familiar with so I looked forward to the detailing the author spent when the story took the characters there. The writing was solid and particularly well done at the beginning of the novel.
The story follows Jonathan Chambers, a large for his age teenager placed in a foster home that is anything but a comforting family environment. Jonathan is doing his best to cope in his situation but when his alcoholic foster father passes away, Jonathan's foster mother makes it clear that Jonathan is no longer welcome in the home. The boy is suddenly faced with having nowhere to go. Lucky for Jonathan, he is handpicked by a mysterious organization for enrollment in a special military school. Without any other real options, Jonathan looks forward to being taken in by the school and subjected to years of rigorous training for a premium, but almost fantastical opportunity.
The adventure that Jonathan and his two companions face is a thrilling one and I think well worth a read. It would probably appeal more to boy readers than to girls because of the time the author spends on the military school training. Although that is really a matter of person reading preferences. For me, the military school training section was a little too long and I drifted, but the adventure picks up again toward the end. Still, it's a great story and I think many YA readers who enjoy stories with survival adventures and a fair bit of military background would love it. Nathaniel Simpson is definitely and author to watch.
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