Around here--without water--mmmmm, you might survive for 24 hours."" This estimate comes from Kevin's Marine officer father, fresh from a desert survival course on his way to the Middle East, as the family drives through the Utah desert for a stopover with Kevin's great-grandmother. Next morning, Kevin is rummaging in the back of a family friend's truck when two escaped convicts steal it. When he jumps out and runs off some time later, they shrug and leave him; and Kevin ends up spending twice his father's estimated limit--two days and nights--before he's found, swollen and blistered and hallucinating, by an old Basque sheepherder who gives him water and gets him to a hospital. Skurzynski gives you the impression that she knows the desert well, and she individualizes the story with unexpected authentic detail. Kevin makes good use of remembered stories about the Indians and of tips from his father's course--but he is most elated when he finds a six-pack of coke left behind by campers. The coke keeps him going, and even after it's gone the cans give him hope and comfort: ""The bright red of the metal was so real, so man-made, compared to the dull color of the emptiness around me."" Nice touches of everyday reality, in a survival story that depicts extremity without histrionics.