A plane crash in the Rockies leaves more than physical scars on an up-and-coming competitive college swimmer.
Kells expertly ratchets up the tension in her thrilling debut novel as she shifts back and forth between the frigid Colorado wilderness and chlorinated pools. Sophomore Avery Delacorte is excited to make her mark on the cutthroat college swimming circuit far from her native Boston and her controlling father. But when she takes a crowded flight back east for Thanksgiving, along with fellow swimmer Colin Shea, the plane goes down in the Rockies. After the first day, Avery, Colin and three little boys—Tim, 6, Liam, 4, and toddler Aayu—are the only survivors. It would be easy to keep readers in suspense about the group's overall fate, but Kells makes the more interesting choice to alternate among the events leading up to the crash, the five-day wilderness ordeal and Avery's bumpy recovery. It's clear early on that the press' version of the story and the truth are not one and the same, but Kells cleverly teases out exactly how the two accounts differ as readers come to learn more about Avery, particularly her complicated relationships with Colin and with the sport of swimming itself. The children, and their growing adoration for their surrogate forest parents in the wake of the crash that orphaned them, are integral to the story and as such are realistically depicted, much to Kells' credit.
With its subzero temperatures that will make you reach for a blanket and a wounded but never weakened heroine, Kells' assured debut is a winner.