cover image The Proving Ground

The Proving Ground

Elaine Marie Alphin. Henry Holt & Company, $14.95 (176pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-2140-0

Ninth-grader Kevin Spencer is used to making new friends every few years as his father, a career Army officer, moves from post to post. But things in Hadley, Kan., site of an ammunition proving ground and Lt. Col. Spencer's new assignment, are different. Generations-old hostilities between town and army stemming from government land seizures have reached a boiling point, and Kevin is caught in the middle. In the novel's finale, Kevin must defuse a terrorist bomb before both the proving ground and Hadley are destroyed. Alphin sets the stage well for the final showdown, and adroitly handles the climactic scene. The novel's most interesting conflict, however--between Kevin and an Army-hating girl he has fallen for--is glibly resolved, marring what is otherwise a suspenseful, true-to-life coming-of-age story. Ages 9-12. (Nov.)