Reviews for Shooting the Moon

Booklist Reviews 2008 March #2
Twelve-year-old Jamie Dexter and her brother, TJ, have grown up with the Army: their dad is a colonel. So Jamie is puzzled when neither the Colonel nor their mother is thrilled to learn that TJ has enlisted. After all, he's going to war in Vietnam, where Jamie would like to go if she weren't so young. But then TJ, a photographer, begins to send her rolls of film to develop that gradually reveal the horrors of what he's seen. This is a sparse, beautifully written story about learning to truly see people, situations, and emotions as they are, not as we want to see them. Through lovingly drawn, complex characters and explicit details about photography, Dowell introduces a war, and the issues surrounding it, that will seem familiar to contemporary readers in spite of the historical setting, and she invites young people to reflect on the many shades of gray that Jamie confronts. Copyright 2008 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2008 #2
Jamie, twelve years old in 1969, is the Colonel's daughter, U.S. Army through and through. But when her older brother TJ joins the army, she discovers that things aren't as simple as they seem. She is surprised that the Colonel does not "turn cartwheels down Tank Destroyer Boulevard" when TJ announces that he has enlisted in the medical corps; in fact, the Colonel actively discourages him. When packages of undeveloped film start arriving from TJ in Vietnam, Jamie learns to develop it at the base rec center. First it's touristy stuff and TJ 's familiar moon shots. As the weeks go on, however, troubling scenes begin to appear in the background -- injured people and amputees. Dowell tells Jamie's story in the first person and gets all the details right, from the hooahs to the descriptions of the base to the tone of Jamie's interactions with the rec-center GIs to the predictable, comforting rituals that families use to steel themselves for whatever happens. For such a straightforward plot, the story arc is complicated and unpredictable -- just like war. The climax packs a wallop, and Jamie and her family know how to react; the army has taught them well. An important, timely story, sparely told, that stays true to its course. Copyright 2008 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 December #1
Having been raised in the Gospel According to the Colonel all her life, confirmed Army brat Jamie Dexter (who'll be 13 in December and therefore knows everything) is mystified when her father--the Colonel--seems less-than-delighted at her brother's choice to forego college for a tour in Vietnam. TJ does leave, however, and Jamie spends the summer volunteering at Fort Hood's rec center, playing endless games of gin with Private Hollister, her supervisor, and developing the rolls of film TJ sends her in lieu of real letters. Under the tutelage of Sgt. Byrd, stateside after a stint in Khe Sanh, she learns both how to develop and how to look at the pictures, which give her an intimate and terrifying glimpse into the reality of the war. Dowell works her narrative from both ends, interlacing the lead-up to TJ's departure into the story of Jamie's first summer without him, masterfully controlling both pacing and voice. It's a lovely, slim coming-of-age tale that uses TJ's pictures of the moon as a gorgeous and understated leitmotif to help guide Jamie's growth. Ineffably wise and picture-perfect. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 December #3

Reflecting America's changing sentiments toward war, this coming-of-age novel set during the Vietnam era focuses on the internal conflicts of an Army "brat." At first, 12-year-old Jamie Dexter doesn't understand why her colonel father--a war hero who "runs the show" at a Texas Army base--disapproves of her brother's decision to enlist. But after her brother TJ leaves for Vietnam, Jamie begins to understand that there is more to fighting a war than glory and heroics. Rolls of film sent home by her brother depict gritty scenes, while the dangers become all the more real when Jamie learns that her card-playing buddy, a soldier stationed at her father's base, has lost a brother in Vietnam. Then TJ is reported missing in action. While segments of this story--particularly the climax--seem rushed, readers will get a clear sense of Jamie's growing understanding of her father's fears. Her work developing her brother's film, a skill she learns at the PX, serves as an effective metaphor for her developing awareness of violence and danger, but the symbolic significance of the moon, appearing in TJ's photographs, feels strained. Although the book lacks the fine-tuned characterizations of the author's Dovey Coe , it succeeds in credibly depicting a girl's loss of innocence. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 May

Gr 5-8-- "The Army way is the right way." So says Jamie Dexter's father, The Colonel, a die-hard officer who has raised Jamie and her older brother, TJ, to be proud believers in the U.S. military. Stationed at Fort Hood, TX, in the summer of 1969, Jamie's family is tested when TJ decides to forgo college and volunteers for the Medical Corps in Vietnam. The spirited 12-year-old wishes that she could go, and she shocked to discover that The Colonel disapproves. When TJ sends rolls of film home from the front, Jamie learns how to develop them. They are chock-full of pictures of his surroundings and his favorite subject, the moon, but over time she's less eager to develop the increasingly disturbing images. As Jamie learns about the war from soldiers at the fort's rec center and watches her father grow disenchanted with the Army, her firm worldview is shaken. The clear, well-paced first-person prose is perfectly matched to this novel's spare setting and restrained plot. Dowell captures Jamie's growing self-awareness and maturity with the slightly detached, wistful tone of a memoir related well after the fact, and the precise clarity of a developing photograph. This thoughtful and satisfying story is more a novel of family and growth than of war. Readers will find beauty in its resolution, and will leave this eloquent heroine reluctantly. This is Dowell's most cohesive and engaging novel yet.--Riva Pollard, American Indian Public Charter School, Oakland, CA

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