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life on base book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

For a child growing up on a military base, life is different from that of the outside “ordinary” world. The children follow order and rank just as their military serving parent or guardian does. Authors Tom and Nancy Wise show this unique military up bring in their highly readable and engaging middle grade novel Life on Base: Quantico Cave.

Stephen is a determined twelve-year-old boy. He strives to live up to his father’s esteem and plant himself as a leader amongst his peers. He is no longer the new kid at Quantico Base, Virginia, but he’s not one of the old kids either. His family transferred from California to Virginia with the beginning of a new school year. Stephen is a kid used to changing schools and finding new friends. When his old friend, Rick, from California arrives on the base, their former friendship is tested by the differences in their father’s ranks. Stephen is now an officer’s son and he is not supposed to fraternize with a Non-Commissioned Officer’s (NCO) kid. Rick’s presence brings about a certain degree of chaos to Stephen’s orderly existence. Suddenly, the two are locked in a competition that Stephen does not fully understand. Stephen is challenged with ideas of friendship, loyalty, and order as he considers what is right for him and tries to bring Rick back around to being his friend.

Life on Base is a well written, engaging, and edifying middle grade novel. There is plenty of action and dialogue pushing the story forward. The first two chapters seem to read at both a rushed pace and a slow pace. Don’t be put off. Stephen, the main character, is showing the reader what life is like on base, what is expected of the children, how things are different and, at the same time, how similar it really is to life outside the base. The novel takes off with the introduction of Rick in the third chapter. At this point, action pushes the story with minimal exposition about life on base. As one reads, the reader becomes aware that ordinary is more a state of mind rather than a common sameness with the outside world.

I found Life On Base an enjoyable read. I was not brought up on a military base, but I get a sense of that childhood lifestyle from the Wise’s likeable novel. I liked Stephen as the narrator. His sense of determination became clear as the story progressed. Stephen’s resolve and attempts to mend old friendships gave the novel a satisfying feel from beginning to end.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Tom and Nancy Wise.