I picked this up after reading Freak the Mighty, and discovering that Philbrick was a prolific YA writer who deserved some additional attention. I had a little trouble getting engaged with this book. The voice of the narrator was a bit off-putting. Homer P. Figg is a teen from Vermont whose evil uncle, Squinton Leach, has become his guardian after the death of both of his parents. Leach sells Homer's older brother, Harold, as a replacement for the drafted son of a wealthy Vermonter during the Civil War. The plot is developed around Homer's devoted quest to rescue his brother. The dialect used is a little too "backwoods hick" for my comfort. It could be that the average American spoke like this during the 1860's, but I found it distracting.
As an historical novel this does highlight some of the issues and events of the period. Of course slavery and the underground railroad are explored, but so are many other historical elements including the war, travel, corruption, spying, and inventions.
I would be interested to see if younger readers could work around the dialect and ironic voice that Philbrick uses. I'm not ready to give up on him as a writer, but this particular book is not going to appear on my short list.