The fourth in the series, this book follows Dicey’s uncle and Samuel’s namesake Bullet (with the moniker he had given himself) in his final year of high school. At this point in family history, the eldest brother has already gotten out of the house, and Liza (Dicey and sibling’s mother) has also left, leaving Bullet behind to fend for himself. He cares little for school, little for anyone really, aside from Patrice who he works for crabbing and oystering. With the onset of the Vietnam war and his school a powderkeg of racial relations, Bullet remains on the outskirts as a loner and someone who is not trifled with my students and teachers alike. He is a boy with the largest of chips on both his shoulders and goes through life to run, and stay true to himself, everyone else be damned. He runs up against a roadblock to his plan when his coach asks him to give pointers to Tamer Shipp, an African-American on the team, or else be kicked off the team.
This book was a slow read for me. It was a hard story to get into because (spoilers from earlier books in the series) we already know that Bullet meets his unfortunate end while serving in the Vietnam War, so for me it was hard to get into the book with that kind of pallor hanging over. Plus knowing what we know of Gram in the present day, it’s hard to see her suffer under the unrelenting rule of her husband and feel unable to speak up for her child, or herself.
All this aside, Voigt again does an exemplary job in writing a compelling and interesting young adult book. Bullet is a product of his environment as his family home is an icy landscape with his cold and unloving father running his house with an iron fist, and nary a word from his mother. The themes are heavy but there is no sugar-coating in this world. Bullet is forced to first identify and then confront his racial prejudices, not to mention come to terms with the impact his actions (or lack of actions) can have on his peers. He is a boy well on his way to becoming a man in a hard world. As the mother of a twelve-year-old boy, this book helped me to try to put myself into his shoes as he comes of age in our patriarchal world and will have to decide how to interact in it.