We moved to the States when I was in 7th grade, and I still remember the sheer amazed joy I felt when I was handed my first Scholastic catalog by my English teacher, and found out I could buy stacks of books for only about $1 each. (yes I’m old now. Thank you for noticing) I have loved Scholastic ever since. Now I’m delighted to see my own children enjoying them too. The Darkest Path is part of their Fall 2013 catalog, and the following review was written by my son Elliot, who is off to his first year of college next week (yes I am old). We got the book free because life is good. The following is Elliot’s honest opinion.
First off, I ‘d like to say that this book, though geared more towards the 12-13 age, is definitely on the more serious and darker side. Jeff Hirsch, throughout many of his novels such as The Eleventh Plague contemplates the future of the world, specifically, The United States. In The Darkest Path, a man named Nathan Hill has started a religious movement called The Path. The primary goal of said Path is to take over the United States which has fallen into moral decay and bring the people back to the path that God has called them to. However, should you refuse to join the path, then you are sent to the Maker through the express lane. The story follows a young boy named Cal who was forced into the path at the age of nine, and has now run away, seeking to return to New York, one of the states still controlled by the U.S Government, which is where his parents live.
The novel is a relatively quick read, yet the passage of time feels longer. Hirsch does an excellent job of creating a complex hero who often is unsure the right thing to do. He is faced with many difficult decisions which plague his conscience throughout the novel. Yet, regardless of his actions, the reader is left with a deep sympathy for Cal, and must constantly face the questions of “What would I do in that situation,” and “Would I be any different?” This novel puts into question many assumptions “normal” people have about right and wrong when circumstances arise in which the right answer is not clear cut. In addition, the novel paints a very realistic potential future for the United States. The envisioned scenario is not a very far-fetched one, which can be a bit disturbing.
The Darkest Pathis written in the third person, but mostly follows the character of Cal as he journeys across the United States in search of his old home and parents. At one point he is taken in by some rich teenagers who have been sent to another state for their protection. The major conflict between them and Cal is the fact that they have no worries in life, compared to Cal who has had to kill in order to save himself. Their callous attitude to the whole war sparks anger in Cal, however, the novel also partially sides with the teens because it is not their fault they have been blessed with different circumstances then Cal’s. Their indifference is very similar to the attitude many Americans today have towards war.