Twelve-year-old DJ is the first grandchild to be invited on a solo adventure with his grandfather, and he’s excited about it.
Proud to be chosen, the white boy can hardly wait for the journey from Ontario to visit his grandfather’s friend Juan DeCarlo’s estate in Central America. But when they land on a secluded airstrip in the middle of the jungle and are greeted by men with rifles, who could blame DJ for wondering what kind of boys trip his grandfather has in store. DJ is quickly thrust together with Juan’s precocious granddaughter, Alejandra. When a member of DeCarlo’s staff falls ill and he and DJ’s grandfather must fly her to the city for medical care, the two young people are left at the jungle estate under the care of armed guards and the hired help. And mere hours into their evening alone, a hail of gunfire forces DJ and Alejandra to flee through the jungle and down a caiman-infested river to escape armed kidnappers. Even for readers who can make peace with the fact that a man might leave his grandchild at the estate of a rumored drug lord, friend or not, DJ’s story still never quite rings true. The dialogue feels stilted and inauthentic, which makes it difficult to invest in the characters, and there’s a surprising lack of suspense, especially given the circumstances.
A disappointing read. (Adventure. 9-12)