Saturday, July 9, 2011

BADD by Tim Tharp

Ceejay has always been close to her older brother.  It's always been them against the rest of the world, or at least the rest of their family.  Unfortunately, when Bobby's mischievous ways lead to the point of a joyride in a stolen car, a choice must be made.  Their parents chose the military over jail for their errant son.

With the exception of leave time, it's been years since Ceejay and Bobby have been together.  He is expected home soon, and Ceejay can't wait to pick up where they left off.  Surely after returning from Iraq, Bobby will be ready to party and enjoy his time with now sixteen year old Ceejay.

The summer starts with Ceejay's parents announcing that she will be working for her Uncle Jimmy.  She'll be slapping paint on whatever project he assigns, but that's better than the job her little sister Lacy gets.  Lacy will be living with their grandmother several hours away.  She'll be taking care of the ungrateful woman while she undergoes chemotherapy.  At least working for Uncle Jimmy, Ceejay will be at home and able to hang out with Bobby when he gets back.

Ceejay is shocked when she sees someone that looks like Bobby cruising by with an old flame.  It takes some investigation, but she learns that he has returned from Iraq early but hasn't seen fit to show up and greet his family.  When Ceejay discovers where he is staying, she confronts him and discovers that something about him has changed.

Bobby's first meeting with family is filled with tension, and a BBQ party planned in his honor turns to chaos when he announces that he was asked to leave the military and earned only a general discharge.  Ceejay doesn't care about that.  She is just frustrated that he is choosing to hang out and live with Captain Crazy, an old Vietnam protester who lives on a nearby, rundown farm.  When a friend suggests that Bobby may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Ceejay is quick to defend her brother and deny the possibility, but as time passes, she realizes there might be some truth to the suggestion.

Tim Tharp, author of THE SPECTACULAR NOW, has used his unique talent to create a novel focused on a topic becoming increasingly more common as our soldiers return from war in the Middle East.  Families like Ceejay's are facing the return of sons and daughters who aren't the sons and daughters they remember.  By including the Vietnam issue, Tharp lets his young readers know this is not the first war to have a profound effect on soldiers and the families left behind.  I appreciated the depth of character development and the depiction of the varied emotional impact caused by Bobby's return, as well as the other problems faced by this typical American family.

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