Charlie West, age 17, wakes up bloodied and bruised, strapped to a chair.
Strangely, he has no recollection of how he got there. His last memory is of falling asleep in his bedroom.
Using his black belt karate skills, Charlie makes a harrowing escape from his captors only to find that the life he remembers no longer exists. Not only are the bad guys after him, but his parents have relocated and he’s been convicted of a crime he is sure he did not commit.
Where can Charlie turn for help as he tries to make sense of his living nightmare?
Good news: Teenage boys, the target audience, will like this book.
There’s non-stop action, karate, terrorists, guns, cars, police officers, a bomb, survival and adventure. Throw in an adoring girlfriend, and what’s there not to like?
Bad news: The author’s multiple reference to skin tone–”white,” “dark brown, the color of chocolate,” “brown-skinned and foreign-looking,” “black guy”–are jarringly overt. Charlie gives his captors names like Rat Face and Chunky and describes them as having “mean, stupid features” (p.42) and “idiot eyes” (p.29).
Good news: There is absolutely no hint of inappropriate sexual content. In fact, Charlie likes his girlfriend (whom he describes in a “knee-length skirt”) because she’s a warm and caring person. That’s a positive example for teenage guys. Will it ring true with the readers?
Bad news: The school principal comes off looking bumbling and incompetent. Maybe the author, Andrew Klaven, is trying to portray him the way a teenage boy typically looks at a school principal. However, I felt the character was unrealistic and Klaven’s development of him communicated disrespect for authority (which teenage boys don’t need a lot of help fostering).
Good news:Klaven uses Charlie’s karate teacher, Sensei Mike, to communicate a helpful truth:
The truth is: you can’t be anything you want to be. All that talk is garbage. I mean, I could try till my ears smoked, but I couldn’t write a symphony–not a good one, anyway. I couldn’t throw a baseball ninety-five miles an hour or hit one out of a major-league park. I want to do all those things, but it doesn’t matter how hard I try–I just wasn’t given those abilities . . . . But this is also the truth: if you try your best and better than your best, and work and push yourself until you think you can’t go on and then push yourself some more–then–then if you have a little bit of luck on your side–then you can be all the good things God made you to be. (pp. 136-7)
The Last Thing I Remember, book 1 in The Homelanders Series, is on the 2011-2012 Truman Award Final Nominees List.
Other titles in the 4-book series include The Long Way Home, The Truth of the Matter, and The Final Hour.