by Ann Rinaldi
(First published by Troll Communications on March 28, 1986)
Oh, baby! American Revolution! I love this shizz so hard guys, I don’t know that all of my nerding out could even convey the full breadth of my fascination with it. It’s just an amazing time to me. So when I was wandering around Goodreads, I happened upon some Ann Rinaldi books, and I soon discovered TIME ENOUGH FOR DRUMS, after it was strongly recommended to me by Tara from Hobbitses. I couldn’t get it from my library fast enough. Because friends? This book takes place in NEW JERSEY. WHERE I LIVE. It is set in places that still exist that I know. The county where I live is ON THE MAP. Yes, IT HAS A MAP. I can’t even right now. Basically, I knew I had to read it ASAP.
Of course, there’s other things about TIME ENOUGH FOR DRUMS that are appealing to me. Jem, the main character, is plucky, trouble-making, and rebellious. She rarely does what she is supposed to do, and when she does, guys, she effing complains about it. This especially applies to her lessons with her Tory teacher, John. He’s a hottie, but an infuriating one for Jem. Most likely this is because Jem, her brothers, and her family are all Patriots who support US independence. John, a Brit, does not. Jem is always suspicious of why her parents tolerate him in their Trenton, NJ, home and why her brother, Daniel, is such good friends with him. But she feels what she feels, and she acts on those feelings. She’s a good, if sometimes foolish, character. After a short while, I was like, “SERIOUSLY, JEM?! You have NO IDEA what John is doing in your parent’s Patriot house?”
John was great character, too. He’s a good foil for Jem. As their relationship progressed, it seemed to happen quickly and was a little melodramatic sometimes, but I enjoyed it. The whole book was a little melodramatic on occasion, so the tone was consistent. Plus, while it seemed like cray drama to me, it was probably closer to the truth of the way things were for people living in Trenton in 1776 than anything else, and I can appreciate that. Some awful things happen to Jem’s family, and I felt for them all.
There was one aspect of the story that I wish had gotten a little more meat, and that was Jem’s uncle, whose name I cannot remember right now, who was of Native American heritage. (Her grandfather spent time during the French and Indian War with an Indian tribe, and had a baby with one of the women.) He shows up randomly, and Jem clearly has a fondness for him, but I couldn’t quite figure out what he was doing there. I would have liked more of him, or none at all.
Overall, there was one overarching thing I noticed while reading TIME ENOUGH FOR DRUMS. If you notice the publication date up top there, this book was released 26 years ago. It was clear from early on how much the quality of YA books has improved since then. I’m not saying that TIME ENOUGH FOR DRUMS is badly written. Not at all. I DEVOURED it. But it almost seemed to be making an assumption about the reader that YA books can’t really get away with anymore, and that is that young people can’t process involved plots, intricate stories, long books with solid world-building and foundations, etc. Things in TIME ENOUGH FOR DRUMS happen quickly, with months at a time being passed over. The book starts in 1776, but ends at Yorktown, where the British surrendered, which is in 1781. That’s a lot of time to cover in one, 250-page book. Hopefully you guys will read Ann Rinaldi‘s book soon and see what I mean. TIME ENOUGH FOR DRUMS was good, but I couldn’t help but wonder how much more gripping and emotionally fraught it would be if Ann Rinaldi had written it today, with today’s standards for young people’s literature.
The historical fiction nut in me enjoyed TIME ENOUGH FOR DRUMS but thought it could have been a teensy bit better. The Jersey girl in me DIED from awesome overload. The American Revolution nerd in me was fascinated as usual by the setting. The relationship between John and Jem was nice, but not nearly as swoony as relationships in YA are now. There are certainly lots of things to enjoy in Ann Rinaldi‘s book, though, and I’ll be sure to read some more of her work. She IS a Jersey girl herself, you know. Gotta show some hometown love.
Rewind & Review is an AMAZING new meme hosted jointly by two fabulous ladies, Ginger from Greads! and Lisa from Lisa Is Busy Nerding. This meme is all about mining your TBR piles and finding some long-lost gems (from 2010 or earlier) that you meant to read and somehow passed over. I KNOW, but it happens. Each month, each participant picks a few oldies but hopefully goodies to read, reviews ’em, and spreads the word. Huzzah!