3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Life on Base: Quantico Cave is a young adult novel by Tom and Nancy Wise. It takes place in Virginia and tells the story of Stephen, a twelve-year-old boy who lives on a military base with his parents and sister. Stephen’s aspiration is to grow up to be in the Marines, just like his father. Speaking of which, daddy issues unsurprisingly abound in this short novel, including mentions of abuse and alcoholism.
While there is an underlying focus on parent-child relationships, the main focus of the novel is on Stephen, his friend Jimmy, and a boy named Rick. Rick is a new arrival from Stephen’s old neighborhood in California. The animosity that Rick feels toward Stephen turns into its own sort of war. They get into a physical fight early on in the story, and the animosity progressively escalates in terms of violence, tension, and rage. While these children certainly have emotional issues, they still are just kids: playing ball together, having sleepovers and exploring the base to keep themselves occupied.
The story is told in the third person and occasionally changes perspectives between Stephen, Jimmy, and Rick, though Stephen is the protagonist. There are a few brief flashbacks that add depth to the characters and that help to explain their fears and motivations. The most distinguishable aspect of the writing style is how character-driven it is. Stephen essentially hears his father’s voice in his head, particularly when he has to make a decision. He seems to almost constantly be wondering what his father would think of him in any given situation and how he should react based on the things his father has told him.
The authors very convincingly convey what it’s like to live on a base as a young person. Given the setting, readers that are unfamiliar with military life certainly learn quite a lot about the social climate. The nature of friendships among kids on bases is quite interesting, particularly due to the non-permanent nature of their living situation. Additionally, their interactions with one another are affected by their parents’ ranks in the military. Many such things are explicitly explained in a mostly smooth fashion to provide a thorough sense of what this lifestyle is like.
There were some aspects of the novel that didn’t quite work for me. As the story progressed, some elements of fantasy emerged. This included a weird scene that took place in a cave and a strange dream sequence that felt a bit forced and read awkwardly to me. I suppose I wanted the story to stay more grounded in reality, given the initial set-up of the novel. I also thought that some background characters, such as Stephen’s sister and father who seem to be quite important to him, should have been more present in the actual story so the reader could get to know them better. Even so, I did think that Stephen’s mental preoccupation with his father was very effective.
All in all, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. I thought there were some missed opportunities given the subject matter and the established relationships that were talked about but not always fully expanded on. Overall, I found the twisted themes about family, honor, and friendships to be rather fascinating. I would recommend this book to those who want to learn more about children’s experiences living on military bases.
Life On Base: Quantico Cave
View: on Bookshelves
Like Tanaya's review? Post a comment saying so!