Plenty of books for teens have an underlying theme of the struggle to grow from a child to an adult, but books set during a war often reveal just how fast a child can become an adult under certain circumstances. Paul Hansen is most definitely a child at the beginning of The Eagle Trail – and a spoilt one at that. The war going on (World War Two) hasn’t affected his day to day life, and he is fairly oblivious to much of it. That is until his father is killed before him, and he is forced to flee through Belgium and France to escape the Nazis. The only way Paul can survive is to stop relying on others, and begin to rely on, and trust, himself.
The Eagle Trail is an exciting read, and it tracks Paul’s journey from his home to the Eagle Trail, which is located in the Pyrenees. Interestingly, despite the title of the book, hardly any of the action takes place on the Eagle Trail, as most of the book is about his journey to get there. And while the novel has enough action (including some great fight scenes, and a brilliant car chase scene), there is a huge emphasis placed on the different characters Paul meets. It would have been very easy to place in some stock characters, as many of the people Paul meets don’t get much page time, but Rigby has done a wonderful job of creating unique side characters that are memorable in their own way. My favourites? Baron the temperamental cat and Father Lagarde the priest and car fanatic.
As far as World War Two books for teens go, this is one of the least depressing ones I’ve read. Sure, Paul has a traumatic experience at the beginning, but much of the book is about the good in the people he meets, and how even in dire situations there are plenty of people out there willing to offer a helping hand.