Life on Base: Quantico Cave is a riveting portrayal of the lives of children whose parents serve in the armed forces. Being a teenager is hard enough, but adding the constant uprooting and moving from base to base adds its own unique challenges as well as rewards.
The story focuses around young Stephen, a “military brat”—a term that these children use to distinguish themselves from their civilian counterparts. Stephen finds himself uprooted once again from his most recent home in California and moved across the country to Quantico Bay, Virginia. His father is a Marine and relocating often has become a part of Stephen’s life. However, becoming accustomed to something is not the same as liking it. And Stephen didn’t like it. No matter the location the houses looked the same, the colors were the same, even the base housing furniture was made from the same Naugahyde vinyl. However, the faces did change and, like most of the other kids; Stephen knew the drill about making friends quickly, along with finding his place in the military-influenced hierarchy of who is who among the kids.
Quite frankly, Stephen was becoming complacent about the continuous moving and felt that life was becoming the same old same old, but that was all about to change.
An old acquaintance from Stephen’s past has returned and things are not perfect between the two. From day one of their renewed “relationship,” Rick is determined to make life difficult for Stephen. What was Stephen to do with someone that constantly wanted to fight? This rivalry sets the background for a story that all middle school to high school children can relate to—there always seems to be a bully or a hotheaded kid to contend with and no way to avoid the inevitable conflicts.
For those unaware of the surroundings of Quantico Bay, authors Tom and Nancy Wise give a good background in the introduction. The USMC base is located near the Potomac and was built right over top of old Civil War encampments. This setting provides the local military brats with trench works, cannon balls, and makeshift bunkers that, simply put, make it an irresistible place to hang out.
The story takes a gripping and unsuspected twist when a hurricane hits the base. When Stephen goes exploring the next day, amidst the uprooted trees and overflowing creeks, he discovers a mysterious cave. Little did he know how much of an integral role that this cave will take in his life and the lives of his cohorts.
This book not only does an admirable job of giving readers an insight on military base life for a youth growing up, it also gives an accurate portrayal of life as a kid today. Challenges exist, personalities will clash, and there will always be that one person that tends to resort to bullying to prove that he or she is king/queen of the hill.
Authors Tom and Nancy Wise effectively use this book, while telling a suspenseful story, to show middle grade readers that there are positive ways to handle these situations without sounding preachy or admonishing. Avoiding physical confrontations, resolution of disagreements with the help of others, the value of real friendship, and the importance of family are issues that are wrestled within this captivating and enlightening book that will appeal to parents and children alike. All of this is delivered in a truly engaging and spirited story—the first installment of the “Life on Base” series—that will ring true to young people of all walks of life about the challenges that they face every day.