Gr 5-9-- Lieutenant-Commander Spencer, his wife, and son, Kevin--a ninth-grader--have moved to Hadley Proving Ground, where the commander has been assigned to direct the operations of this facility for testing ammunition and equipment. The Spencers, however, soon learn that the townspeople deeply resent the Army's presence. During World War II, the federal government had unfairly confiscated property owned by families who had lived in the town for generations, and the bitterness has remained and festered. When Kevin tries to make friends with his new fellow students, he is singled out as an ``Army Brat.'' He is treated especially roughly by an outspoken girl named Charley Hanson. As Kevin discovers the tragic story of why she has so much animosity, he uncovers a related plot to sabotage the base. Not a confrontational person, he finds that Hadley is his own proving ground. The metaphor is stretched a bit thin, and the happy ending is predictable long before the ending of the novel. However, the deft mixture of adventure, a romantic undercurrent, local politics, and development of character adds breadth and depth to this briskly paced, involving story. --Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego
The only son of a career military father, ninth-grader Kevin Spencer is tired of moving from base to base, changing schools, and always being an outsider. Hadley is the latest stop for Kevin's father, who is the new boss at "The Proving Ground," the army testing area for new weapons and ammunition. The townspeople resent the army's high-handed takeover of farms to make way for a test site. In fact, there are some people who hate everything about the army--including "army brats" like Kevin. Beautiful, red-headed Charley Hansen is one, as is her cousin Duane, whose grudge manifests itself in not-so-harmless pranks. The story develops logically enough, with evidence of the town's resentment building from small incidents to an overt act of terrorism. But the characters (except for Kevin, who is really too good to be true) are flat and two-dimensional: Charley is never developed beyond her first hair-tossing introduction, and Duane is a stereotypical bully. Alphin's voice is too present in Kevin's thoughts and observations, and the insertion of Dungeons and Dragons as a ninth-grade pastime dates the work considerably. The realistic military setting is certain to have great appeal, however, and the briskly paced plot moves quickly toward a pat conclusion.