Andrew Klavan has started writing young adult fiction and for a Christian publishing house. While this may be a bad move for some writers, Klavan has navigated the move very well. In truth, Klavan is a fine popular contemporary novelist. The extra benefit of this enjoyable read is that it may indeed have an additional application in light of our political and economic times. Klavan is interviewed by National Review online and speaks insightfully about moral reality and the universe.
The plot line is simple as it tells of four teens who become trapped in a Central American country as a communist revolution unfolds. There is a typical range of characters, including one of the teens who is sympathetic for the revolutionaries and has the opportunity to see behind the curtain and get a glimpse of what really motivates the revolutionaries he has read about, including some of their manifestos. One political lesson is that if it is a heavy handed government bent on controlling the people of a militant cause desiring to redistribute the wealth, freedom is oppressed. One young lady is a remarkable, but not overly idealized example of fearlessness and how she came to be that way is well told. Without giving away too much, by the end of the novel, everyone is changed.
Facing death, a key character gets a glimpse into the meaning of it all, not fear, “But instead, I felt sad. Not just a little sad. I felt this huge, huge sadness. Sure, in church we talk about an eternal life in heaven and all that, but I wasn’t in church now–and I was so, so sorry that this life was coming to an end. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to leave this world. I didn’t want the new school year to begin without me. I didn’t want to miss all the stupid ordinary things that happen in life: you know, just playing games or messaging your friends or going to the beach or whatever. I wanted to see my parents again. I wanted to grow up and go to college and get a job. I wanted to meet my wife and my children. I wanted to live–I wanted to live so badly. And it made my heart feel heavy as lead to know that I wouldn’t, that everything in this world was over for me now, everything here was finished.” (108) This is a beautiful articulation of the sentiments of a Christian Humanistic appraisal of the goodness of life in the here and now.
Later Will reflects further, “My sadness grew heavier as the end came closer. It was like a great heavy weight inside me that I had to drag along. But even so, in my mind, there was still all that clarity and beauty and perfection, and the strange bright eagerness to live every second until all the seconds were gone.” (111, 112)
At a key moment when a weighty decision has to be made, Will thinks again, “My life – my friends lives–so much at stake–everything at stake on a single chance, our last chance. It was sort of like that moment before the firing squad, that moment when I thought I was going to die: in those final seconds before we reached the gates, everything seemed brighter, more precious, more real.” (277)
The quotes here point to the moral clarity and profundity within this novel, but the majority is filled with action and adventure and a good bit of humor is peppered throughout. This is a fine read for young adults and adults who like action-adventures with a well told political message sub-created within a moral universe by a novelist with sound moral reasoning.
Books mentioned in this essay are available from The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.