Review of the Week: “Most Dangerous” by Steve Sheinkin

Most DangerousSheinkin, Steve. Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War. Non-fiction. Roaring Brook, 09/2015. 384pp. $19.99. 978-1-59643-952-8. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 7-12.

Steve Sheinkin (Bomb, Flashpoint, 2012) is a master of narrative non-fiction for teens, and he scores again with Most Dangerous—the story of Washington insider turned Vietnam War whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. This compelling story traces Ellsberg’s stance on the war, first as a committed hawk and then as a vehement opponent, while weaving in a thorough overview of the war in Vietnam and responses to it in the U.S. A cast of characters for the complex history begins the book, followed by a prologue which is a flash-formula to a moment in mid-history that is as dramatic as a spy movie, before Sheinkin really begins with Ellsberg’s youth. What shines through is Ellsberg’s passionate belief that Secretary of Defense McNamara’s report to Lyndon Johnson should be made public, and President Nixon’s relentless pursuit of Ellsberg, with dirty tricks intended to vilify him. In the epilogue, parallels are drawn with contemporary whistleblower Edward Snowden, making Most Dangerous more than just a fascinating historical drama. Sheinkin uses extensive primary and secondary sources, meticulously providing source notes and citations. This is a thrilling, insightful story, grounded in substantive research, and perfect for readers who like intrigue and real-life history. Review based on an ARC.

Hayley Beale, San Francisco Univ High School

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