A Tunnel in the Pines
by Lucia Greene
North Country Press

"This time we're on some kind of sick conveyor belt going forward whether we like it or not. Chickening out is not an option, not now."

Just before summer vacation, Wills and his best friend Andrew spend their days planning their club while avoiding endless taunts from Wills' brother Taylor and his cruel sidekick, Strat. With his passion for Darwinian science and a pension for deep thinking and offbeat social behavior, Andrew's worm investigation leads them to a bright idea. Why not include Taylor and Strat, as well as other local kids, and outsmart the bullies in the process? In the beginning, The Annelids work together to arrive at ideas about how the club will work. However, things go awry when the group digs a tunnel, and each member has different ideas about what the club's initiation will entail. The unfolding severity of Andrew's asthma forces Wills to grow up and stand up for his friends. Ultimately, Wills must respond to the increasing social complexities that emerge with maturity.

Greene's novel begins with Wills' vivid dream and culminating chapters that showcase Wills and Andrews' unique characters. The author uses sensory language and foreshadowing well to engage readers and illustrate what might happen next. Although there are moments when Wills acts a bit out of character for what a reader might expect—for example, when Andrew so easily persuades him to launch upon the idea of the Annelids—and a resolution for a critical event is missing, this story shows how opposites can stand up for each other. This narrative conveys how tormenting, such as bullying, can get out of hand. It also exhibits the remarkable strength it takes to stand up to the enemy for others. Overall, this is a fine middle-grade novel with a classic feel.

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