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The Last Thing I Remember the Homelanders, Book One

Review

The Last Thing I Remember the Homelanders, Book One

Charlie West is an ordinary --- if somewhat above average --- high school student. He excels at his studies. He’s training for his black belt in karate. He dreams of becoming an air force pilot. And he has just gotten the phone number of the girl he likes at school.

The last thing he remembers is the day he put on a karate presentation for his classmates. Which is why it makes no sense to be waking up bruised and bloody, tied to a chair next to a tray of torture instruments. How did he get here? How much time has passed? And is he really who he thinks he is?

Andrew Klavan, long known for the mystery and crime novels he writes for adults, has penned his first thriller for young people. He uses the conspiracy genre to create a morally compelling adventure about a young person engaged in a desperate fight for his identity, his country and his good name.

After hearing orders for his death, Charlie escapes from his captors using his martial arts training. But this is just the first challenge in a series of adventures that pits his survival skills against man and nature. Charlie slips through a series of underground caves and flags down a passing minivan only to find himself in police custody. Later, after eluding the police, he utilizes a homeless shelter where he once volunteered.

Using a series of flashbacks, THE LAST THING I REMEMBER is written in Charlie’s confident and unshakeable voice. He follows not just the clues that might reveal what has happened to him, but also unravels an assassination plot targeting a government official.

It is common for conspiracy novels to target the government as the source of paranoid fantasies. THE LAST THING I REMEMBER differs from this approach in Charlie’s trust for authority figures and willingness to put his life on the line for his country, even when it is unclear whether or not this will benefit him. His country and his reputation are important to him, even when these things cannot come to his aid.

Equally compelling is Charlie’s moral stance, especially as it is gradually revealed that the world he is living in does not mesh with the world he remembers. Other characters might unravel beneath the pressure of the situation, or find their change in circumstance requiring a change in beliefs or behavior. But Charlie discovers that his faith and his code of behavior help him rise to the occasion. A big part of this is the discipline that has been a part of his karate training. His Sensei Mike tells him: “Avoid rather than check; check rather than block; block rather than strike; strike rather than hurt; hurt rather than maim; maim rather than kill, for all life is precious.”

Charlie blends this with the biblical philosophy of “turn the other cheek” into a kind of muscular pacifism that he interprets as “…turn the other cheek doesn’t mean let yourself be killed. It doesn’t mean let yourself be ruled by bullies, or stand by and do nothing when big guys are picking on little guys or when men are hurting women.”

Interestingly, this philosophy doesn’t dampen the action. Instead, it adds to the tension of whether or not Charlie will cross the line in a fight. Like Batman, another vigilante hero who won’t carry firearms or take a life, it sets the limits of how far Charlie will go, and heightens the stakes of the action. It also provides a clear dividing line between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” There is no ambiguity about Charlie’s goodness, or at least his good intentions. If the few hints provided in THE LAST THING I REMEMBER prove correct, Charlie might be more “good guy” than he knows.

THE LAST THING I REMEMBER has all the raw action and adventure on which this genre thrives. Readers might be tempted to read it twice to try to unravel the possible clues studded throughout the text. Klavan writes tightly and deepens the mystery throughout the course of the book, leaving room for development in what promises to be a page-turning new series.

Reviewed by Sarah A. Wood on April 28, 2009

The Last Thing I Remember the Homelanders, Book One
by Andrew Klavan

  • Publication Date: April 28, 2009
  • Genres: Thriller
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson
  • ISBN-10: 1595546073
  • ISBN-13: 9781595546074