Author: Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts

Publication: 2013, Scholastic

Pages: 176

Overall Rating: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Rating for Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_35_zps7a173504[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary: Vanessa, Carter, Buzz, and Jane are on a sailing boat in the South Pacific – a vacation with their uncle that’s supposed to help bring the half-siblings closer together. But a massive storm hits without warning, leaving the four kids shipwrecked on a deserted island. No adults, no one to help. If they want to survive, they’ll have to do it on their own.

Age of Main Character: 9-13

What I Liked the Most: It’s a light, easy read; a fun introduction to the survival genre. The storm and shipwreck is pretty intense, with huge pounding waves, driving rain, the crack of breaking wood and metal, adults getting swept overboard. But we don’t see anyone die and it doesn’t carry the terrifying intensity of a book like The Living that’s written for older readers.

The kids’ time on the island has a few genuine scares and gives each of them a chance to shine as they strike out to find water, build a signal fire, get the solar panels on the wrecked boat up and running, and figure out where they are. There’s some genuine inventiveness here, but nothing that felt like it would really be beyond the capabilities of four relatively smart and adventurous kids. It’s a survival story I think the average tween could really sink their teeth into. And the island itself is well done, with enough palm trees, cliffs, lagoons, and mosquitoes to make it feel like a living-breathing place.

What I Liked the Least: The characters are pretty thin and stereotypical. You’ve got the headstrong athlete, the computer geek with untapped potential, the brainiac, the techie, and there’s not a lot of character development – at least not in book one. I barely got to know the kids.

The book is also seriously short. It feels like a marketing gimmick – taking what should have been one decent length book and breaking it up into three really short ones they can sell for $5 each. As a result, it ends just when it seems like the story is really taking off. They never even got to the point where they had to start looking for food or building a shelter. Just as they’d tackled their first real problem, finding water, the book was over.

How Good was the Action? Like I said, the storm is pretty intense, with the thrashing waves, the sounding of cracking wood, and the whole boat breaking apart. Probst and Tebbetts write in short scenes, quickly switching perspectives among the four kids. And during the storm each scene ends with a hook – the lights blinking out, the lift raft disappearing, a scream. It keeps you rushing from scene to scene to see what’s happening to each of the kids. Once they reach the island action takes a back stage to survival, but there are still a couple of good scenes that rush along at an intense pace and have enough fear woven into them to keep you on your toes.  

How Engaging was the Story? This is survival-lite – a fun, fast-paced read without the emotional intensity or trauma of books like Hatchet, Red Midnight, The Killing Sea, or The Living. But as long as you approach it for what it is, it’s an engaging enough story. I read it in a single sitting and was thoroughly entertained.

Overall Assessment: A lite but entertaining introduction to the survival genre, with fairly intense action and a lush setting that comes to life before your eyes.

Profanity: None.

Sex: None.

Violence: Minimal. There are some intense moments during the storm and a couple real scares while on the island, but no blood and no one dies.

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