Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Last Full Measure

The Last Full Measure

Trent Reedy
Fiction  Series
For ages 14 and up
Scholastic, 2016   ISBN: 978-0545548779

Not that long ago Danny Wright was a normal teenage boy who was beginning his final year of high school. He was eager to play football with his team, to train with his new buddies in the Idaho National Guard, and to spend time with JoBell, his girlfriend. Life in his hometown was good, and the only real personal worry he had was that JoBell was talking about going away so that she could go to college.

However all was not well in the United States. Political posturing and divisiveness, high rates of unemployment, and other social ills created an ‘us and them’ situation. Many pro state’s rights people felt that the federal government was stepping on their toes too much, and the governor of Idaho in particular began to push back. During a demonstration in Boise, the National Guard was called in help keep the peace and Danny accidentally fired his weapon.

This simple event was like a flame being set to a pile of dry tinder, and in seemingly no time at all a civil war broke out. For a time Idaho was occupied by federal forces and Danny and his friends had to go into hiding. They had to kill people, and some of their number were killed too. Danny was tortured and his mother died. It was a terrible time.

Now Idaho is free of occupation once more but the situation is still tense. Disgusted by the heavy-handed and often brutal tactics favored by the federal government, many states have seceded from the union. Danny is relieved that he is no longer being called on to fight. He has had enough of it all and just wants to have a quiet life again, as quiet as is possible in the current mess.

Then someone takes advantage of the political instability, and they steal two nuclear weapons. The weapons are exploded in Washington D.C and New York City. Millions of people die, and countless others will die from radiation sickness. Appalled by what has happened, Danny, JoBell and their friends escape from Boise and head to Freedom Lake, their hometown. The federal government, what is left of it, is going to start attacking the ‘rebel’ states, and the teens want to get back home before the war starts up again.

When they get to their hometown they find that it has changed a great deal. The Brotherhood militia is in control, and a wall has been built around the town to keep bandits and other troublesome elements out. The Brotherhood members say that they are there to keep the peace, and at first this does seem to be what they are doing. Then Danny and JoBell notice that Brotherhood members are getting lots of food and other supplies while their neighbors practically starve. Danny realizes that the non-white residents of Freedom Lake are being singled out for persecution. Perhaps it is time to leave Freedom Lake and to set up a community somewhere else.

It turns out that Danny and JoBell are not the only ones to have this idea. They join a group of Freedom Lake residents who want to leave their home and go to an abandoned school in the mountains where they hope they will be safe from government forces, militiamen, and bandits alike. Secretly people all over the town gather up food, clothes, medicines, fuel and other supplies. When two of their number, a latino husband and his wife, are lunched, they decide that it is time to leave. They know the Brotherhood is not going to just let them drive away and that they might have to fight their way out, but anything has to be better than being trapped in a town that is being ruled over by fascist white supremacists.

In the previous books in this series Danny was often eager to join the fight, feeling that it was his duty to do so. In this third and final title in the trilogy, he is a very different young man. He has grown and matured, and he now understands that violence solves nothing. He is tired in body and soul and is ready to live a different life, but he is still called on to defend himself and others, he still has to pick up a gun and fight.

Once again Trent Reedy has created a story that is thought-provoking and powerful. He forces us to think about our own belief systems. He shows us to great effect how differences of opinion can turn into a cataclysmic disaster if people don’t curb their anger, and if they only see the differences and ignore the things that they have in common. This story is not for the faint of heart. It is often acutely painful and upsetting, but it also offers up a message of hope.