450 East

Fiction - Mystery - Historical
390 Pages
Reviewed on 11/06/2016
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Melinda Hills for Readers' Favorite

John Sebrook is a 16-year-old who learns quickly that life is not always fair in 450 East by David Robert VerValin. After the death of his parents, John has to leave his Southern California home to live in Indiana with grandparents he barely knows. Not only is that a culture shock, but he discovers that he has some connection to the Native American culture still active in the area, in spite of the displacement of the tribes during the westward expansion of settlers. Fortunately for John, he fits in well at school, is able to join the cross-country team, and starts a relationship with the beautiful girl next door. Several old mysteries surface, though, and create questions that are difficult for John to answer, including the presence of a spirit light in the woods and the disappearance of his uncle 30 years earlier. As John and Madison investigate some strange occurrences, they uncover more than they could have ever expected. Can this teenager accept a completely different way of life and embrace a past he knew nothing about?

VerValin's 450 East is an amazing combination of history, tribal beliefs, the struggles of growing up, and a young man doing what it takes to come to terms with major changes in his life. Wow! This is not only an amazing story, but the history the author shares and works into the present day is certainly something most people know nothing about. David Robert VerValin has created a wonderful look at the difficulties encountered when embracing the past and the beliefs of one’s ancestors while coping with everyday issues in a modern setting. The characters are well developed while the action moves the plot along smoothly and keeps you turning the pages to see what happens next. This story provides a much-needed look at the events that contributed to the formation of the Midwest and how they still can influence what happens today. This is a truly memorable book that is well worth reading and thinking about long after turning the last page.

Christian Sia

David Robert VerValin’s 450 East is a novel that powerfully depicts American colonization and its politics. Readers are immediately immersed in a thriving community in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in the early 1800s. But the advancing American troops spell problems and disaster for this organized and evolving community. Can they mount a resistance against the well-armed troops? In the opening pages of the story, a young man runs up to the grandfather, head of the family, with terrible news. ‘“Who? Who is coming?” someone in the crowd asked. “The white man, the Americans. They are on their way here to destroy the villages along the river, as far as the Waapaahsiiki.”’ From this moment on, the life of the community is changed forever and the reader watches as the conflict builds.

David Robert VerValin’s prose is beautiful and as the reader gets into the story, there is this feeling of experiencing a clash of cultures. The dialogues are well developed and they are plot-driven. They also allow the reader to understand how the community was organized at the time this story takes place. The conflict is introduced at the beginning of the story, and it is interesting to watch how it quickly develops and escalates. There are very interesting and symbolic characters in the book, and readers will love to follow characters like John Sebrook who stands out in the conflict, a man whose loss has been immense, and a character the author uses brilliantly to castigate the politics of the white man. VerValin’s 450 East is not like anything I’ve read before, a story that is so compelling and entertaining it will appeal to fans of The Last of the Mohicans. It would be a spectacle on the big screen.

Marta Tandori

450 East by David Robert VerValin is a beautifully-written work of current young adult fiction that seamlessly combines history and lore to create a spell-binding book that will have lovers of historical YA fiction clamoring for more. Seventeen-year-old John Sebrook is your typical Southern Californian kid. He’s a cross-country runner, a black belt in Judo and, along with his best buddy, Todd, he spends his free time skateboarding or running along the beach in Santa Monica. However, his young life goes into a tailspin in the worst possible way after his parents are tragically killed when their Piper Malibu plane crashes over Yosemite Forest on their way home from a weekend business trip to Reno. Todd’s parents call in his estranged paternal grandparents, Kathy and Paul Sebrook, who take him back to their farm outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The culture shock of going from Southern California to a farm in the middle of nowhere, where the mighty Pacific Ocean has been replaced with miles upon miles of corn and endless country roads seems depressing at first, but John resolutely tries to make the best of it – especially after his grandfather offers him the use of his souped-up 1954 Studebaker truck to use as his wheels and he learns from his grandmother that the local high school he’ll be attending has a track team.

However, things definitely take a turn for the better when he meets the very pretty Madison Nicks, who lives on the neighboring farm, as he rushes to her aid one morning while out for his usual run. Their friendship quickly develops and Madison tells him that she’s a Miami Indian and John soon gets the shock of his life when his grandmother tells him that they, too, are Miami Indians. Soon, John eerily begins to feel out of sorts within his body, which isn’t helped by the fact that he sees this inexplicable blue light at night in the woods from outside his bedroom window…

Vervalin’s writing is solid and detailed, giving readers plenty of imagery without overwhelming them. John’s transition from a self-engrossed Southern California teen to a reluctant country kid is handled in a realistic manner although, at times, it seems as though John is just a little too perfect and accommodating. The combination of Indian history and lore is incorporated into the strands of the story like a finely woven tapestry that serve to enrich the story as well as give it its backbone. Overall, wonderful writing, wonderful story, highly recommended!

Ruffina Oserio

David Robert VerValin's 450 East is a gripping story that combines history and fiction to create a drama witnessed only in the conquests of the colonies. It is set against the backdrop of life in Fort Wayne, Indiana in the 1800s, with native families pitched against the conquering Americans. This is a powerful story about colonization, a family’s struggle to survive, and what characterized American politics during this moment in history. Readers are introduced to compelling characters like John Sebrook and his struggles to preserve a family heritage that is threatened by a more powerful, deadly force.

David Robert VerValin's 450 East is well-written, with powerful descriptions and traditional images clashing against an advancing culture. The reader is hooked from the very beginning of the story. Yes, because the narrative voice is so powerful and clear, it’s hard to ignore. One immediately feels that the author writes with confidence. The dialogues are interesting, flowing naturally, and they help to drive the different elements of the story: plot, characterization, and conflict.

There is a lot of drama, a lot of action, and far more going on in this story to entertain the reader. David Robert VerValin has created a beautiful story with a monumental conflict. It is as entertaining as it is intriguing and many readers will love to imagine what it was like to live in the context within which the conflict is explored.

Liz Konkel

D.R. Vervalin's 450 East is based in history, but has mystery at its heart. John has his life figured out. He’ll go to law school like his father and remain in California. When his parents are killed in a tragic plane crash, everything he knew changes. The grandparents he hasn’t seen since he was a child show up to take him home to their farm in Indiana. When his life starts to become some version of normal, he meets the neighbor’s daughter and learns more about his family than he ever knew. A strange light in the woods and a mystery that’s plagued his family for years come from the past to bring John a chance to search for answers, and a new path.

It wasn’t what I expected when I read that it was a historical novel. Where there is a mystery that influences the characters and their stories, the characters are front and center. D.R. Vervalin doesn’t force the ties to history or the supernatural, but masterfully weaves the elements into the story. The characters are the main focus. John’s parents die early, but their presence is felt throughout. D.R. Vervalin's 450 East is character-driven with people who have clear voices, flaws, and are genuine, easy to connect with and relate to. Whether you’re reading it for the connection to Native American history and culture or the mystery, there’s something for everyone. It’s a novel with a lot to say about history and human nature, about loss and grief. There are so many layers that I want to read it again. A definite must-read!