Andrew Klavan has taken a small (but worthwhile) detour in his writing career over the last few years, producing top-notch thrillers aimed at the Young Adult audience, published by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. His previous four books, The Homelanders series, brought the Christian YA field to a whole new level. All in all, I think the stand-alone novel Crazy Dangerous is even better.

One improvement is the narrator/hero of Crazy Dangerous, Sam Hopkins. Unlike Charlie West, the hero of the Homelanders books, Sam is not an adolescent James Bond, outstanding at everything he does and equipped with a black belt. Sam will be far easier for most kids to identify with. He’s a smallish, not very popular, not academically outstanding, not very athletic teenager, struggling with the challenges of being a preacher’s kid in a small town in upstate New York. When he receives an odd offer of “friendship” from three of the shadiest kids in his school, he gets involved with them, just to escape the public expectations that face every PK.

But the situation changes when his new “friends” make an attack on Jennifer, a vulnerable classmate with mental problems. Rescuing Jennifer, and paying the price for it, seems to be the end of Sam’s adventure, but it’s only the beginning. Because Jennifer’s mysterious, oddly articulated visions of impending death and disaster have more truth in them than anyone guesses, and everyone in Sam’s world is not what they seem. But the lesson Sam is learning—“Do right. Fear nothing”—steers him through a variety of strange paths to the right decisions in a big, explosive story climax.

Great story. Great values. I found it interesting that Sam’s pastor father, though a good dad and a wise man, seems to be a liberal Christian, and therefore blind to some truths that might have helped his son. That was an intriguing—and narratively useful—nuance.

The plot was weak at one point, I thought, where Sam made a braver choice than I thought consistent with his character. But that might be just a natural coward’s reaction to reading about a better person than himself. It certainly won’t bother young readers, who will consume this book like nacho chips and shake the bag for more.

Highly recommended for teens and up. Great for adults too. Intense situations, but no foul language.

Lars Walker is the author of several published fantasy novels, the latest of which is an e-book, Troll Valley.