In this fluidly written, thought-provoking novel set in 1980, 13-year-old Riley is unhappy about moving with his mother to the small town in Vermont where she grew up. His misery increases when Sam, an old high school friend of his mom’s, begins spending a lot of time with them. Riley is resentful of Sam, especially when he finds out that Sam is a pacifist who refused to fight in the Vietnam War. Things begin to look up for Riley after his mother gives him a pair of binoculars that belonged to his great-great-great-grand-father, a soldier in the Civil War. He develops an avid interest in the war and Vermont’s role in it, befriends a troubled girl in class, and grudgingly begins to form a relationship with Sam, though he still can’t accept what Sam did. But then events unfold in ways Riley could never have imagined, and he is forced to reexamine his ideas about courage, heroism, and the morality of war.