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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Off Target: The Path You Choose #1 is an interactive social issues book for young adults and preteens written by Jill Ammon Vanderwood and illustrated by Kerah Diez and Trevor Brown. Being the new kid in the neighborhood is never very easy, but the boy in this story is fortunate in that a neighbor and his son came over to help him and his dad as they were unpacking their U-Haul truck. The boy’s name was Trevor and they would be attending the same school, which was a big relief. At school, Trevor introduced him to Eric and Tyler, and then to Sara and Lisa, who were all friends.
The new kid is surprised when bullies come over and dump milk on Eric’s head as his friends all watch. Eric is angry, but there’s little he can do except wipe off the milk. Later, after school, everyone goes to Eric’s house to hang out, and the new kid is invited along. At first, they’re all playing football in the backyard, but then Eric says he has something to show them. They go upstairs to Eric’s parents’ bedroom, and he takes a loaded gun out of his mother’s night table. No one has ever been that close to a gun before and they wait in turn to touch it. Tyler suggests that Eric should take that gun to school one day to give the guys who are bullying him a scare. Lisa agrees, but the new kid is not so sure about it. What should he do? The author presents fourteen different stories depending upon his decisions.
Jill Ammon Vanderwood’s interactive social issues book for young adults and preteens, Off Target: The Path You Choose #1, is a stark and realistic workbook designed to help kids figure out what to do when the unthinkable occurs. The author ends her book with some stunning statistics about gun deaths among children whose parents fail to properly secure their weapons as well as descriptions of the ordeals and life-changing circumstances that can arise when unsupervised minors play with guns. Her stories address issues like responsibility and doing the right thing even when it seems much easier to just run away. Kerah Diez and Trevor Brown’s graphic illustrations are dynamic and direct, making the reader feel even more a part of this interactive book. This book may save lives -- it’s that good. Off Target: The Path You Choose #1 is most highly recommended.