Growing up in the years following World War II, Joel and his friends hear the stories of fathers and uncles who fought in the conflict, and while such stories may seem far way, Joel has the foreboding sense that there will be another war waiting for him when he is of age.
This teen novel begins with a 7-year-old Joel already convinced that at some point he will be fighting – perhaps, he believes, with the Germans or Russians. Over the next eleven years, Joel matures into a life in which he develops into a better than average baseball player, discovers girls, and also runs into schoolyard bullies and tough guys. In one such encounter, Joel gets the best of a particularly mean bully and finds that his success makes him a target for other boys who want to prove how tough they are. But Joel does not fight back, realizing that the retaliation would never end, and pacifism takes root within him.
By the time Joel turns 18 and becomes eligible for the draft, the dreaded Germans and Russians of his youth have morphed into the Viet Cong in a war that Joel sees as immoral and unjustifiable, one in which he decides he cannot participate. While some of his friends wind up in the military, Joel turns his eyes northward to the haven of Canada. Can he really turn his back on his family and friends in order to live his pacifist beliefs?
This book reflects the author’s own true experiences and is told in a personal and engaging style. As long as there are conflicts to be fought – in Iraq, in Afghanistan – young men will have to answer the same questions that Joel faced. Perhaps this book will help them make the right choices.