Author: Alex Van Tol

Publication: 2010, Orca Soundings

Pages: 113

Overall Rating: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Rating for Action: bth_5-star-rating_zps467d5332[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Jill took a summer job on a dude ranch, guiding tourists on trail rides. It sounded perfect, until she realized the pay was awful and her boss was a jerk. After they have a blow-out fight, she takes a lone man into the mountains for an adventure ride, only to realize that he’s a sadistic killer. With no one to help, Jill finds herself in a desperate race to survive.

Age of Main Character: 17

What I Liked the Most: Everything about the attack on Jill feels terrifyingly real. Van Tol does nothing to sugarcoat it. This is a situation that could happen to anyone, and she is relentless in pounding home the sense of terror without ever allowing Jill to truly give into it.

What I Liked the Least: This is a novella. Van Tol keeps the narrative brief and taut – which I like. But in some ways the book does feel a bit too short, at least when it comes to character development. We know the bare minimum about Jill – just enough to care what happens to her and to both understand and believe her response to the attack. But I wanted to know more. And I especially wanted to know more about the killer. He’s a suave pschyo, never screaming or getting angry with Jill. But that’s about all we know. I think the story could have benefitted from delving a bit more into his character.

How Good was the Action? Once Jill realizes she’s in danger, which happens about page 40, the action kicks in and doesn’t let up. From there it’s a straight ride as Jill fights, runs, jumps, swims, and does everything in her power to survive. Fear and tension cut the page like a knife until you can feel every blow, every life and death choice. Once it starts you WILL NOT be able to put this book down until it’s done.

How Engaging was the Story? This isn’t a character driven book. Like I said, you learn the bare minimum about Jill and her attacker – just enough to create empathy and make the story gel. But that hardly matters. It’s such a short book, you know from page one that Jill’s headed into danger, and once that danger kicks in you’ll be glued to the page. I’m a slow reader and I devoured this one in just over an hour.

Overall Assessment: A short and utterly engaging read. This is survival at its most basic, and watching Jill fight for her life is not something you’ll quickly forget.

Profanity: Little to none.

Sex: The killer uses his knife to cut the buttons of her shirt and for a time Jill fears being raped.

Violence: The man has a knife and is trying to kill her, and Jill fights back with everything she has. So yes, there’s violence, and it’s both disturbing and real.

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