Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BAND OF BROTHERS meets MEDAL OF HONOUR for YA boys, 26 May 2011
This review is from: Duty Calls: Dunkirk (Paperback)
16-year-old Johnny Hawke lied about his age to join the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) after hearing Tom Spears (his sister's fiancé) tell stories of his army adventures in India. Now Johnny's in Tom's platoon in the Yorks Rangers, which is trying to repel Germany's invasion of France and Belgium but the French army has collapsed in the face of superior German equipment and tactics and the BEF is in retreat.

Poorly equipped and low on ammunition and supplies, Johnny's platoon must help hold the town of Cassel for as long as possible to allow the rest of the BEF to reach Dunkirk where boats are waiting to take them back to Britain. With the German Panzers closing in and the town being bombardment by Stukas and Messerschmitts, Johnny and his platoon know that with the odds so stacked against them, it will take a miracle to survive ...

A well-known author of adult military fiction, James Holland's first YA novel has boy readers firmly set in its sights.

Packed with period and military details, the book includes a glossary of terms used, maps and a description of how the BEF was set up. Although this helps to make the story feel authentic, at times it also slowed down the plot and I sometimes found the switches from Johnny's perspective in the front line to the decisions being made further up the command chain to be distracting.

Johnny goes though the emotions and experiences you'd expect and it's easy to put yourself in his shoes - especially in one scene where he has to decide whether to shoot a German soldier. Tom is also broadly drawn although I liked the conflicting feelings he had for Johnny because of their prior relationship. However the other platoon members who seldom rise above names on the page, which meant I didn't care when they died or were injured.

The action moves along pretty well - particularly those scenes relating to the defence of Cassel and it's interesting to read a war story that's focused on one of Britain's darkest military hours. However there are few surprises in the story, and at times it lacked real jeopardy for Johnny and his friends.

It's a fast-moving book that gets across a sense of period and tactics and although I'd prefer the characters to be a little deeper, I'd be interested in reading more about Johnny's adventures.
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