SCRUB FIRE by Anne de Roo


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A two-week camping trip in the New Zealand bush goes awry when Aunt Celia and Uncle Don prove to be duffers, a campfire turns into a scrub fire, and 14-year-old Michelle, and her brothers Andrew (12) and Jason (9), find themselves lost in the wilderness. The book demonstrates the change in their relationships through their experiences, and otherwise is virtually plotless: what's at stake in fact is chiefly Michelle's character--uninterested in the trip and the outdoors at the start, ignorant and bossy, she does come to appreciate Andrew's quiet competence, the self-sufficient camaraderie the three briefly attain, and their need in some respects for their parents. In short, she becomes--without preachiness--a bigger and better person. To survive, Robinson-Crusoe-like, and maintain some sort of order, the three set up a make-believe royal court: Michelle is Queen, Andrew is Prime Minister, Jason is first Chief of Police and then, promoted, Crown Prince. And their make-believe is attractively and intelligently played out. But like Jason's illness, the most crucial development here, it's in no way involving; we're always on the outside looking in, following a situation in which we're waiting to see not whether they'll come out alive (which of course they do), not even why no one seems to be searching for them (which we learn about, in elaborate detail, at the close), but how Michelle will handle the next contretemps. And since she's not sufficiently rounded to be sympathetic despite her flaws, that's a very limited lure--leaving the relative unfamiliarity of the New Zealand wilderness setting as the book's main attraction.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1980
Publisher: Atheneum