In Firestorm, the first book of the Caretaker Trilogy, seventeen-year-old Jack Danielson saved the world's oceans, but at great personal cost his parents were killed and everything he knew and believed in was turned upside down.
Now Jack has come home to see P.J., his girlfriend and sole remaining touchstone. But she's missing, and blame falls on Jack. On the run with Gisco, his crafty canine sidekick, Jack is literally caught up in a whirlwind as he travels to the heart of darkness to rescue P.J. a journey that will bring him face-to-face with the father of his old nemesis, the colonel, aka the Dark Lord from the future. Jack's quest becomes all the more complicated as he discovers that the only person who can stop the Dark Lord is another time traveler, the wizard Kidah, who has disappeared in the present.
Book 2 of the Caretaker Trilogy mixes heart-racing adventure with an urgent ecological warning about the fragility of the world's rain forests and the importance of respect for indigenous peoples. Readers will be drawn into the vortex of the quest whether or not they're familiar with Book 1.
About the Author
David Klass is the author of many young adult novels, including You Don't Know Me, Losers Take All, and Grandmaster. He is also a Hollywood screenwriter, having written more than twenty-five action screenplays, including Kiss the Girls, starring Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd; Walking Tall, starring The Rock; and Desperate Measures, starring Michael Keaton and Andy Garcia.
Read an Excerpt
April Fool's Day in Hadley-by-Hudson. Spring chill cutting sharp as a blade. Dusk descending. Musty smell of nearby river clotting my throat. Had enough sentence fragments? My English teacher said they were a weakness of mine. But that was nearly six months ago, when I was a senior at Hadley High School, leading a normal life. My biggest concerns then were chicks, flicks, and fast cars, roughly in that order.
Nothing normal about me now.
Parents gone. Friends lost. Old life vanished. Sense of security evaporated. Belief in the sanity of day-to-day existence drowned in the deep Atlantic.
But I still like sentence fragments. They generate pace. You want pace? Stick around.
Main street of Hadley. Six in the evening. People I know, or at least used to know, climbing in and out of cars. Buying groceries in the co-op. Picking up dry cleaning. Heading home to eat dinner with their families.
They pass me. Rub shoulders. None of them give me a second look. Don't you remember me? Jack Danielson? Straw-colored hair, piercing blue eyes, and above-average brain power, except when I do something really stupid. Once gained three hundred and forty yards in a school football game.
No, they don't remember.
Can't blame them. So much has changed.
Swore I'd never come back here. Too many memories. There's the Rec Center where I played hoops. The liquor store where weused to get Dan's older brother to buy us six-packs. The ice cream shop where P.J. and I would split double-chocolate cones with sprinkles.
P.J. Her house is three blocks from here. Do I dare? Yes, that's why I'm here. I tried my best to run away from this moment. Tried to pretend I could make a new life. Realize there's no explanation I can give that will satisfy her. She'll be furious at me for disappearing. Maybe we can never repair it. Never regain what we had.
Trust gone. Foundation of relationship caved in.
Doesn't matter. Have to try. Because I still love her. That's why I came back. Pure selfishness. Clinging to last possession. My love for P.J. is all I've got left.
Pass Mrs. Hayes. My third-grade teacher. Her eyes flick over me. And then away.
Not completely her fault she didn't recognize me. I've taken a few precautions. Wearing a cap, tilted low. Dark scarf, wound high. Grown a scraggly mustache, my first. Hair hasn't been cut in three months. It falls to my shoulders in straw-colored mop.
But I can't hide my eyes. Supposedly the windows to the soul. That's what Mrs. Hayes didn't recognize as she walked by me holding a sack with toilet paper and cat food peeking out the top.
New windows? Or is it a whole new soul? Did what happened to me change me to the point where I'm no longer myself? Or is this still me, walking away from the center of town, heading slowly up Elm Street?
No doubt my Firestorm adventure and the long journey home transformed me. I've been so lonely. Spent so many sleepless nights staring up at the stars, trying to figure things out. Why was I chosen? If there's a God, why did he or she let things get so messed up? Is our Earth really so fragile? If this is the Turning Point, can we save it? Do our lives have meaning, or is it all for nothing?
Many questions. No answers. But when you agonize longenough, it doesn't matter if you come up with answers. The questions and the pain change you.
I know I'm very different from the guy who drove P.J. home from the Hudson River make-out spot six months ago, his mind on sex and football. But is he still recognizably part of me? Is there any Jack Danielson left in me?
Only one way to find out. Last remaining touchstone. The ultimate litmus test. P.J.
Here's a sad but true definition of home: it's where you go to find out if you're still you, or if you've become somebody else.
Less than two blocks from P.J.'s house. I slow down. Scared out of my mind. This was a bad idea. Should have tried to make a go of it in England, where I landed after my Firestorm adventure. Or joined the crew of the tramp steamer that brought me back across the Atlantic to America. Could have stayed in Maine, in the small port city where it never stopped snowing. Might have hung longer in Boston, where I got a job stacking crates. Guy in the warehouse needed a roommate.
But I had to come home. A soft voice kept calling to me. Whispering across the months and the miles. "I'm still waiting for you. Come home, Bozo."
P.J.'s nickname for me. Not very respectful.
Less than one block from her house. I can see the outline of her roof against the evening sky. The walls. My God, she's inside there! She's been there for the last six months without me. Doing her homework. Eating cereal for breakfast. Talking to her friends. Dreaming her dreams.
Half a block. Her window. No light on. Maybe she's studying at the library. I should go check there first.
No, don't leave. If I chicken out now, I'll never come back. Better to be a man and tell her what happened.
Sure, just tell her the truth.
Hi, honey. Sorry. I didn't mean to disappear. But members of something called the Dark Army came one night and killed bothmy parents. It turns out they weren't my parents after all. They were just sheltering me.
I'm from a thousand years in the future, when things are pretty bleak. I was sent back to find something called Firestorm and save the oceans, thereby improving living conditions centuries hence. A telepathic dog and a beautiful shape-changing woman helped me. I did what they asked. I found Firestorm and I destroyed a giant trawler fleet. But then the dog and the woman blinked out, leaving me alone. And now I'm back. Sorry I didn't write or call. And how have you been the last six months, P.J.? Did you have a good Christmas? And how's the French Club?
I stop in my tracks. What the heck am I doing here? I can't tell her the truth. And I won't tell her a lie. So I can't tell her anything. I know in my heart I can't come back here. Don't belong anymore. Been away too long. Caused too much grief. Passed the point of no return.
I turn slowly, and take a half step away. Then a hand grips my arm. "Jack? Is that you?"
Copyright © 2008 by David Klass
Reading Group Guide
Discussion Questions for WhirlWiND: the Caretaker trilogy, Book 2
1. In Whirlwind, David Klass introduces a new villain, the Dark Lord, who comes back to the present to deforest the Amazon as part of his master plan to rule the earth in the future. This plot raises real issues about the health of the rain forests and the threats to indigenous peoples.
If you have also read Firestorm, you know that corrupt offi cials within the United Nations sold vital information about the oceans that, in the wrong hands, would destroy the oceanic environment the offi cials were supposed to protect. In Whirlwind, the author implicates another culprit. Who is it?
What can be done to reverse the destruction of the rain forest? What organizations are committed to improving conditions?
2. Trapped on a mountain with no way out, Jack is trying to come up with a plan.
"Then, suddenly and incongruously, I hear a woman's soft voice, singing . . . Somehow I know that
I'm hearing my mother's voice for the first time. It's a sweet and melodic voice, but its true beauty comes from a deep reservoir of personal anguish." [p. 99]
Jack has been angry with his birth parents from the moment he discovered they'd sent him away.
At this moment, he realizes that they must have had reasons, and even considers that his mother's giving him up might be viewed as "selfless and heroic."
Adopted children may have conflicting feelings about their birth parents and their adoptive parents.
Do you have any friends who are adopted? Are they curious about the circumstances their birth parents were in? Have they met their birth parents? Do they know stories about them? Are they angry? Discuss adoption from the point of view of the child and the two sets of parents.
3. When Jack insists on bringing Mudinho, a young boy who is the victim of drug smugglers, along on his quest to find P.J., Gisco admonishes him:
It was foolish and reckless to bring him, Jack. Now we're responsible for him, and it's going to slow us down and endanger our mission . . . It's just one life . . . Millions of people are suffering horribly and depending on us. Your duty is to the many, Jack, and not to the few, and especially not to the one.
Jack replies: "How can saving a kid's life not be moral? . . . Saving the life of one person is just as important as saving the entire world." [p. 105]
What do you think? Is one life as important as the lives of many? Do you think David Klass meant for you to take Gisco's statement at face value, or is there another meaning to it?
4. In prison, Ernesto says to Jack: "Colonel Aranha knows exactly what he's doing. To break a man's spirit, force him to kill what he loves most." [p. 139] Discuss where and when that practice has been employed throughout history.
5. The brutality of warfare in Whirlwind is both shocking and real: "I keep flashing back to the young soldier I stabbed. I recall the shock in his eyes, his desperate attempts to repair the damage my blade inflicted, and then how quickly he toppled and bled out." [p. 272]
"I press forward, leading the final charge. Blood runs down my nose and cheeks, into my mouth. I
feel its heat and taste its salty tang and it stirs me to a new level of savagery. This is pure blood rage.
Punches and kicks don't faze me. I will not be denied." [p. 280]
Discuss the "inevitability" of war in relation to Whirlwind, to history, and to the present day. Do you think war is a necessary evil in the context of this novel? Look back into history: was war the only way to resolve conflict? Think about the many wars going on throughout the world today. Are we still at a point where warfare is the only answer, or do we have alternatives to violence?
6. Kidah tells Jack: "It was your destiny and you have to find a way to accept it . . . You can let the weight crush you, or you can accept it." [p. 252]
The question of free will and predetermination has been debated by scholars and philosophers for centuries. Prophecy and destiny are often aspects of fantasy novels, as they are in Whirlwind.
Discuss the question of free will and predetermination with your book group. Where do you all stand on the issues of fate, destiny, and choice?
7. The triangle between Jack, P.J., and Eko is never more evident than in the encounter between P.J.
and Eko at the end of Whirlwind.
As Eko cuts down P.J. from her chains, P.J. utters a weak thank-you and adds: "I know who you are
. . . And I know what you want."
Not to be outdone, Eko responds, as she leaps out of a window, "You can have him back for now,
but in the end he is destined to be mine." [p. 291]
Compare these two women who are vying for Jack's attention. Who is the better mate for Jack? Even though Eko claims that she is destined to be with Jack, shouldn't what he wants count? Have you or has someone you know been in a similar situation? How was it resolved?
8. At the end of Whirlwind, the Dark Lord escapes. We are left with the question: how will he strike again? Discuss what you think will happen next.