A staggering natural disaster maroons a handful of teens and younger children in a suburban Colorado big-box department store.
An ordinary morning school-bus ride almost instantly goes wrong when a sudden, bizarre hailstorm wrecks Dean's bus to the high school and sends the elementary/middle school bus through the wall of a nearby Greenway. Heroically, driver Mrs. Wooly goes back to rescue the surviving high school kids and then ventures back out into the chaos for help. While the kids wait—and it will surprise no one when Mrs. Wooly fails to return—they sort out power relationships and monitor events on the outside as best they can. As the days go by, these relationships shift; not surprisingly, some kids are better at survival than others. The introduction of a couple of adults into their self-contained universe threatens the delicate balance. The storytelling takes some shortcuts. The near-future setting seems to derive mostly from the narrative necessity of keeping the lights on (solar arrays on the roof power the store); a chemical-agent cocktail that escapes NORAD conveniently manifests dramatically different symptoms depending on victims' blood types. But characterization is strong—the children emerge as fully as the teens—and narrator Dean keeps the pages turning. And there's no beating the ingenuity of the Greenway setting, where apparently everything these kids need is at their fingertips.
Lord of the Flies this ain't, but it is a pretty decent adventure story, and readers will eagerly await the second volume. (Adventure. 13-16)