The Liberation of Gabriel King -- K. L. Going

Well, then.  I feel old:

I lay back and thought how this was going to be the best summer ever.  This was the year of the Bicentennial--the 200th birthday of the United States of America--and our very own governor, Jimmy Carter, was running for president.

When a book comes out that is classified as historical fiction and it's set the year before you were born, you know you're in trouble.

Before I started reading, I thought it was strange that K.L. Going would follow up Fat Kid Rules the World (It's awesome.  Read it.) with a juvenile title.  It was just hard to imagine what she'd write about.  And how she'd write about it.

More than anything else, The Liberation of Gabriel King reminded me of Wendelin Van Draanen's Swear to Howdy.  (Which by the way, oh my god, I loved.)  It starts off with a lot of Southern rambunctious fun but evolves into a story about something much more serious.  Unlike Swear to Howdy, though, there is some foreshadowing.  You, as the reader, are aware of what is coming.  There are no big shocks.  It's really about Gabriel coming to understand the world that he lives in.  And it's about the nature of bravery.