Published by: Koehler Books
Publication date: December 23rd 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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I liked it. It was an overall enjoyable read.
Life on Base: Quantico Cave by Tom and Nancy Wise was an enjoyable experience! Our story follows Stephen, a boy who is around eleven years old, and his experiences living on a military base and being part of a military family. Tom and Nancy captures the fun, the excitement, yet challenging and sometimes lonely experience of a boy who makes the most of his situation.
I enjoyed the friendship between Stephen and Jimmy and even appreciated some of the challenges Stephen faces when he crosses paths with an old friend. The adventures Stephen goes on had me thinking back to my childhood and how simple life can be. It had me smiling and laughing a little seeing things unfold from Stephen’s point of view.
Some parts of the story left me disoriented for a bit as I tried to figure out how certain scenes related to each other, but it didn’t distract from the overall story. What I really enjoyed is the youthful spirit and innocence Tom and Nancy captures. It was a light read, but made you feel what Stephen feels which kept me engaged from start to finish. This story gave me a reprieve from some of the heavy hearted books I’ve come across and it was fun to reflect upon similar experience from my childhood. I liked it and found this was an overall entertaining read. I would recommend this to anyone, all ages, who wants to take a break from reality for a bit without having to invest too much time.
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☆➹⁀☆☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆ from Jules @Book Junkie Reviews
Having raised two boys, I really appreciated Wise’s portrayal of the boys (and one “tom-boy”). The scuffles, resolutions and friendship between adolescents are on target. Wise’s characters portray the usual cast of kids found in a neighborhood, a schoolyard or a military base: the bully, the honorable, mature kid, the runt, the wannabes.
I loved main character Stephen’s imagination/pretend play as well as the random ramblings of inner dialog. It brought back memories of days when you played with whomever was available in the neighborhood, and memories of having to entertain yourself without the assistance of a lot of electronic devices. Stephen and Jimmy’s wild imagination, enthusiasm and crazy dreams are endearing.
I’ve not lived on a military base, nor do I know anyone who has, so I found it fascinating to learn about life on base. I had no idea that the families’ social status mirrored military rank, nor did I know that socializing outside of rank was frowned upon. I did love that playing baseball became a common ground for the kids to mix and socialize. I am not unfamiliar with children’s woes of having to move frequently for a parent’s work, and I appreciated Wise’s representation of the fluidity and transience of a “military brat’s” life and relationships.
Stephen and his friends have loving, strong moms who are frequently parenting on their own when duty calls. I got a good sense of Stephen’s dad from Stephen’s frequent musings about his father. It was delightful to feel how much Stephen loved and respected his father.
Life on Base: Quantico Cave is entertaining and well written. Thomas Wise has deftly incorporated some good messages into the story as well. There are strong messages about family, respect, being a good friend, avoiding fighting, and conflict resolution between peers. The author’s respectful prologue about the military and life of military families sets the tone for this novel which is loosely based on the author’s own experiences.
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☆➹⁀☆☆ 2.5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆ from guest reviewer: Jennie
Life on Base is aimed at middle grade readers and presents a look into the lives of kids whose military parents have brought them to Quantico. The plot focuses on the tensions between Stephen and Rick, an old rival from a former base neighborhood. Supporting characters include Stephen’s best friend Jimmy, as well as other base kids and their families. I enjoyed meeting these kids and catching a glimpse into their lives, particularly their perspectives on moving from place to place. I connected to the premise: my own step-daughters spent their growing-up years moving from Air Force Base to Base. I also really valued how the authors portrayed Stephen’s desire to be a Marine and the way he tried to live up to his Dad’s example. Stephen is a great kid, doing regular kid things, and that’s something easy to relate to.
Despite connecting with the characters, though, this book didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Some of the chapters individually are quite good – particularly the beginning chapter with Stephen and Jimmy running a mission, and later, the story line about the storm. However, there just isn’t a good flow from section to section. I felt like I was reading a serial story in a magazine, rather than a unified novel. After a chapter ended I didn’t feel a sense of need to read on. Sometimes I was confused by the timeline – was that argument at the old base or at this one? There doesn’t seem to be an overall point or reason to the story, and it honestly felt like it could be anywhere – the ties to Quantico were not spelled out enough.
As with the purpose of the book, the pacing felt off as well. There were several long pages of text which described situations that didn’t resolve so much as they merely ended. For example, a base house under construction set the scene for a benign childhood showdown that did nothing to move the story forward. I frequently found myself skimming pages and pages of descriptive prose, trying to get back to the characters or the action. Yet, even the action succumbed to the over-description. One fight scene went on so long I gave up hope of finding the end and skipped to the next chapter. I didn’t see the need to read about the moves of the fighting because the authors had already established the enmity between these characters.
It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that the titular cave is even mentioned. That’s a whole lot of waiting for a young reader. And, after all that waiting and wondering, the cave was disappointing. The whole feel of the book changes when the characters are in the cave. The reminiscent, soft view of an on-base childhood that the authors spent so much time cultivating shifts jarringly to a very odd fantasy/nightmare narrative that reads like a completely different book. But only for a chapter or two! Then, it’s back to stories of kids. Then later, the cave again. It was so odd, and underdeveloped, and again, not cohesive as a whole story.
Overall, there are parts of this book that I would read together with a child, if they were in Stephen’s shoes and found themselves traveling from base to base. But there just isn’t enough cohesion for this to be a novel I would recommend.
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