Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shelf Life [kids]

Trapped by Michael Northrop, 232 pages.

Seven students are the last waiting to be picked up from their rural New England high school on the day that a devastating blizzard, bringing massive amounts of snow, begins. By the time they realize that no one will be coming for them, spending the night at the school seems to be the best option. However, the fierce winds and the snow continue into the next day and night, the day and night after that, and for many more days. The power and heat go out; the water pipes freeze and parts of the roof shudder with the weight of the snow, eventually giving way. Food runs out. The situation becomes not one of merely keeping warm, but of staying alive, trapped in the school.
Does this sound like a believable plot?
It didn’t sound entirely plausible to me. Why couldn’t the students simply leave the school and walk to safety?  Could Michael Northrop’s story convince me that such a situation could really happen? 
It did.  I was convinced - and moreover, I was very impressed by this book. The author has been careful to provide logical explanations why the students did not – and later, could not - leave the school. The interactions between the students, their attitudes and the dialogue are skillfully and realistically described, contributing to a sense that the reader is actually trapped in the school with the stranded students. Michael Northrop has created seven realistic teen characters who will speak to teen readers, especially boys.
Powerful and unsettling, Trapped is not a “… and they lived happily ever after” tale.
Michael Northrop’s book is a gripping survival story, a page-turner which I would highly recommend for both reluctant and enthusiastic readers.

** Recommended for ages 12 to 15 years.

The Survivors by Will Weaver, 308 pages.
The world had changed immensely.
Two years after the volcanic eruptions, the ash is still falling like thick grey snow, playing havoc with the world’s climate, agriculture, economy and the entire social order, which is fast degenerating into lawlessness. Sixteen-year-old Miles, his younger sister Sarah and his parents flee their luxurious suburban home in Minneapolis and head for an abandoned cabin in the north woods. Their new home is a sanctuary of sorts for the family, but there are new challenges and dangers to be faced here during the long harsh winter. The lack of electricity and plumbing are the least of those challenges.
At first the family relies on Miles’ wilderness skills and his determined, commonsense approach. When he has a serious accident, the rest of the family must learn new skills and work together to cope. There is no one else to ask for help, for the family members are viewed as unwelcome “travelers” or “illegals” by those in the nearest town.
In this harsh and dangerous world, the Newells manage to accept their changed reality, adapt and learn how to really work together as a family in order to survive.
The narration of The Survivors switches smoothly between Miles and Sarah to provide two points of view.     
This well-written sequel to an earlier book by Will Weaver, The Memory Boy, can be thoroughly enjoyed on its own.

** Recommended for ages 12 to 15 years.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on March 28, 2013. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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