cover image It’s Up to Charlie Hardin

It’s Up to Charlie Hardin

Dean Ing. Baen, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4767-8030-6

Best known for his techno-thrillers, Ing (Gyp Artist) changes tack, drawing on his memories of growing up during WWII. The result is a slice-of-life series of escapades starring 12-year-old Charlie Hardin, set in 1944 Austin, Tex. In what Ing admits to being a “naked homage to Mark Twain,” with Charlie as his Tom Sawyer, Ing spins out an episodic story that sees Charlie and his friends getting into trouble and enjoying assorted high jinks as they engage in egg wars, play in storm drains, enjoy unexpected financial windfalls, and unearth a counterfeiting ring in their own neighborhood. There’s a bucolic feel to these youthful misadventures, an innocence and naivety that belongs to a long-vanished era and location. Ing infuses Charlie’s tale with humor and dry wit, though at times the dispassionate remoteness of the voice detracts from the immediacy of the action. Younger readers may have trouble connecting with the story due to its old-fashioned tone (“A stab of uneasiness pierced Charlie’s vitals”), but it remains a fascinating glimpse of youthful life as it once was. Ages 10–up. (Feb.)