Nevin paints a enlightening picture of the politics and battles of the time that help me put events of today in better context--to think the U.S. was that close to dissolution! He takes great license in giving well-known historical characters distinctive personalities that entertain while at the same time providing a great history lesson. I finished this book feeling like I really knew 'Little Jimmy Madison', Ol' Hickory Andrew Jackson, and the ambitious soldier that was Winfield Scott.
As an avid follower of the Freakonomics duo, I was anxious to read this book. I found the story was interesting and the characters compelling, but the story quickly devolved into a kind of "Lord of the Flies" tale--documenting how each person in the housing project used their arbitrary power over every other person they could. I found the ending rather abrupt and was left wanting to hear some sense of the sociological conclusions of the author. I got no sense that the author learned anything useful from the experience he so carefully describes in the book (beyond the economics of gang life already reported in Freakonomics). From a production standpoint, I think the author should have read the whole book, rather than just the last chapter and I think the musical interludes between chapters was bizarre.
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