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Shooting the Moon

Review

Shooting the Moon

Sticking to your convictions often takes courage and willpower. But sometimes, questioning what you believe and allowing room for doubt can take even more determination and requires a different kind of courage. How far are you willing to go to stand up for what you believe? And how much does it take before you're able to change your stance? This is the dilemma presented in SHOOTING THE MOON, a touching coming-of-age novel set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, by critically-acclaimed author Frances O'Roark Dowell.

SHOOTING THE MOON is the story of 12-year-old Jamie Dexter, an Army brat who couldn't be prouder when her older brother TJ signs up for the armed forces and gets shipped off to Vietnam. As she waits for news from the front, she volunteers at the base's recreation center and befriends Private Hollister, a young soldier who helps her pass the time with games of gin rummy. Her father, whom she calls the Colonel, has brought the family up to believe that a life in the military is the key to living a life of success. Jamie wholly believes in the Colonel's philosophy until TJ begins sending her rolls of film from Vietnam.

As she develops the photographs, a different picture of military life begins to emerge for her. Faced with the brutality of the war, Jamie comes to the conclusion that she needs to intervene when she learns that Private Hollister is about to be reassigned to Vietnam. Steeling her courage, Jamie prepares to confront her father, the one man she thinks stands between her new friend and the horrors her brother has revealed.

In Jamie, Dowell has created a strong, believable young girl who shows both remarkable insight into the world around her and an almost melancholy naivety. It's almost heartbreaking to watch as Jamie, steadfast in her beliefs at the beginning of the book, slowly begins to see her opinions change and realize there is "more in heaven and earth."

When someone else challenges our beliefs, it's hard enough. But when the questions are from within, it can be world-changing. At the same time, though, it's fulfilling to see her make the journey from taking everything as read to raising some serious questions about the war and the military. Her relationship with Hollister is sweet and provides a nice counterpoint to the turmoil she begins to feel at home. Although the very end feels a little too neat, it offers a beautiful coda to Jamie's journey and will leave readers satisfied.

SHOOTING THE MOON will draw you in with its simplicity and astound you with its powerful story. Frances O'Roark Dowell's seemingly quiet book will make a memorable imprint on all who indulge.

Reviewed by Brian Farrey on December 29, 2009

Shooting the Moon
by Frances O'Roark Dowell

  • Publication Date: December 29, 2009
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416979867
  • ISBN-13: 9781416979869