Synopsis: July 4th, 1777. '78. '79. '80. '81. Five 4ths of July. Five pivotal days in the life of Jake Mallery, a teenager growing up on the Connecticut coastline.
The American Revolution is under way, and all Jake wants is freedom from tyranny - the tyranny of his strict father, that is. Jake has a reputation for being wild; his nickname, "Mal," is French for "bad." He doesn't care about fighting for liberty. To him, the pursuit of happiness is sailing the high seas on a privateer, seeking adventure. But his father insists that Jake remain at home to tend the family's ferry and join the local militia in case their town is attacked. Which, Jake knows, will never happen. He's destined to a life of boring chores, militia drills, and verbal sparring with Hannah, the insufferable indentured servant of his best friend Tim's family.
But on July 4, 1779, Jake's world is turned upside down: The British are coming, and they mean to suppress the Patriot rebellion by any means necessary. The brutal Battle of New Haven sets off a series of horrific events that will shatter Jake's life. And only when he has lost his own freedom does he begin to understand what's at stake in this war.
Review: This was not my favorite American Revolution story - far from it, in fact. First off, there is Jake, who is one of the least likable heroes I have ever encountered. While his father certainly treats him badly, Jake does nothing to help the Reader sympathize with him. He is lazy, surly, has a mouth almost as bad as a sailor's, and an absolute jerk to Hannah. As the story progresses, he shows little regret for his ways, making it really hard to feel happy for him when good things happen.
Five 4ths of July does something interesting, though - something I've not seen many others do. It provides both sides of the coin - the Tories and the Patriots, lining them up side-by-side. The Author makes a fairly good attempt at showing the good and bad of both, too; not all Patriots were necessarily law-abiding citizens, nor were all of them bad. Likewise, not all Tories saw themselves as rebelling against what the rest of their countrymen wanted, nor were all Tories innocent bystanders who just wanted to remain with England. The Author points out that on the prison hulks, the Tory guards were the cruelest.
However, among all of this, the Author also does some slight bashing of the Founding Fathers, claiming that they all wanted war, which is just plain not true - especially of John Adams. For a long time, they tried to avoid war; they only wanted representation in Parliament, but the King would not budge, and soon war became the only option. And while the Author seemingly offers a balanced view of Tories and Patriots, there is also a constant undercurrent which seems to point a finger at many of common Patriot sayings and making it seem like the Patriots just repeated these phrases (like "no taxation without representation") without knowing what they meant. In short, many of the times the Patriots were portrayed as hotheaded idiots who spouted ideas they could not defend.
On top of this is the language and sexual content. There is a "bedroom" scene (pg. 96), which is handled fairly delicately with no unnecessary details, but upon its conclusion, the Reader is left with even fewer characters to like, and throughout the book, there are several references to that particular incident. The only thing that makes this occurrence a little forgiving is the two characters do end up marrying each other. As for language, there is a count-up of 4 g--damns and 1 s-word - all of which, I believe (but I could be incorrect), are spouted from our oh-so-likable hero.
In short, Five 4ths of July was, overall, an unpleasant American Revolution story which seemed to do more bashing of our country's founding than anything else. If you want good American Revolution stories, read Ann Rinaldi - she offers true balanced views and very likable characters.
Overall Rating: KK