Jake is coming home as a hero. At least that is what others are saying. In fact, he’s in line to get a silver star for his bravery and conduct in battle in the Middle East. He comes from a military family. His grandfather is an actual retired General from the Army, and his father has made a career in the military as well, although he never saw active duty.
Jake, however, doesn’t feel like a hero. He saw horrible things while serving. And did horrible things. Things he can’t forget about. How do you justify killing young children who are armed? Jake was injured in the line of duty and has a short visit home before heading off to rehabilitation at an army hospital. But he still has more time to serve on his tour. He’s beginning to wonder if he can actually go back into the combat zone.
While he’s home, he is confronted by a girl from his old school who points out all the issues with JROTC programs and how it seems to be a recruitment program for young people to go right into the Army. Jake knows that there were things that his own recruiter lied about when he signed up and so that adds to his conflicts. Plus, even though his girlfriend Aurora waited for him while he was deployed, is it really fair to ask her to continue waiting for him if he goes back? What if he comes back even more damaged, emotionally and physically, than he already is?
Price of Duty by Todd Strasser does an amazing job of showing the grim realities of war and how we send over people who, in many cases, are completely unprepared for the mental and physical possible ramifications of the job. It also shows how even though the army is a volunteer army, it is mostly made up of those groups in society that already have limited options, like minorities and people on the lower socio-economic ladder.
Highly recommended book for 8th graders and up. Really powerful, accessible read and shines a spotlight on many of the issues facing veterans and those who are looking to join their ranks.