When I saw Kathi Oram Peterson’s new title: The Forgotten Warrior, I was pretty excited to see what it was like. The tale of the stripling warriors is on of my favorites and a classic standard for the youth. It's one you really want them to remember and understand because the world today can be just as brutal as those war years in the Book of Mormon. We want our children to understand the power that faith can have to protect them.
In The Forgotten Warrior, Syd, a modern teenage girl with a lot of worries and responsibilities weighing heavily on her shoulders is transported back to the time of the Helaman's Warriors. There was much to like about this story. I liked the fact that even though Syd had the emotions and thoughts of any teenage girl, she was far from incapable of handling the situation she found herself in. The author made it very clear that Syd was transported through time for the Lord's purposes, not just for a fun "magical" trip. Syd had a purpose to serve there and a few things to learn. What was her purpose? Well, it just so happens that Syd is a black-belt in karate and helps teach at her mother's dojo. Tada! After some initial distrust Syd is called by the prophet Helaman to prepare his son's for battle with her fighting style. Helaman feels that learning some of Syd's techniques will help give the Stripling Warriors an advantage they sorely need in their fight.
What does Syd need to learn? What it really means to have the heart of a Nephite. What the power of the Lord in our lives really is. Oh, and how to fall in love, too.
There were things about The Forgotten Warrior that I didn't like as well. There are snippets at the beginning of each chapter that are told from the perspective of one of the warriors. This was fine, except in my old age I had a difficult time reading the font that was chosen to distinguish between the two thought processes. Sadly, I ended up skipping many of these passages instead of taking the extra time to squint at it. When I did scan a few lines there seemed to be an added element of Book of Mormon history presented so I partly wish I could have taken in a bit more of it.
It also annoyed me that it took so long for anyone in Ancient America to first: notice Syd, and second: to figure out that the spy was a "she" instead of a "he". I get all the factors that the author put into place to compensate for that and the reasons why not everyone could find out her gender but it was still a little annoying to me personally.
Plus, I always wonder at these types of books when someone goes back in time and seems to carry such wonderful stores of knowledge around in their heads. As I've said before, I'm not the world's best Book of Mormon scholar and though this particular story is pretty well known I tend to get details muddled. Syd, on the other hand, always knew the next step in the war and what its outcome would be. I would not have been able to believe this except that the author let me know it was a portion of the Book of Mormon the teenager had to read and reread frequently for her mentally-challenged little sister.
These little nit-picks aside, The Forgotten Warrior has a lot of potential. It can be a great story for our young people, and big people too, to learn from but I'd have to recommend waiting a year or so before handing it off for someone to read. Why? I was really bummed by the ending. The Forgotten Warrior is obviously meant to be part of a series because the ending just leaves you hanging. I'm all for a good cliff hanger at the end of a book-- it always leaves me sniffing in disgust, but I get its value and use. The problem was there was almost no resolution at the end of The Forgotten Warrior. Aside from a little boy being rescued, every other story problem that had been set up was still just hanging there at the end. That felt very much like a betrayal of reader trust.
That being said, there are definitely things to be learned and inspiration to be had; the messages are still needed by our youth and Kathi is doing her best to get those messages out. She states, “The working theme of The Forgotten Warrior was that faith builds courage and courage builds faith. That faith you can help you learn to forgive. A bonus for me would be if my readers could come away learning more about the stripling warriors, about their strong loyalty to family, faith, and country and apply some of those character traits in their lives.”
To that end, she is currently doing two important things. If you watch her blog you can read her insights about the stripling warriors and how we can be more like them today. She is also currently holding a contest to encourage the youth to find stripling warrior role models among their friends. There is a form on her website that can be downloaded and filled out. People can nominate a youth between 8 and 18 (boy or girl) to be a Latter-day Stripling Warrior by listing a kind deed or deeds they have done. They fill in the nominee's name and address and mail it to Kathi. Every entry will receive a certificate that says "______ is a Latter-day Stripling Warrior". It will be signed by Kathi Oram Peterson and three of the heroes in The Forgotten Warrior. The overall winner receives a $50 gift certificate from Amazon.com.
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