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96 MILES by J.L. Esplin


by J.L. Esplin

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-250-19230-1
Publisher: Starscape/Tom Doherty

Brothers undertake a desperate desert journey during a long-term power outage.

While their preparation-obsessed father’s out of state on a business trip, leaving 13-year-old John and 11-year-old Stew under the loose supervision of their neighbors, a complete blackout hits. Days pass and it doesn’t let up; what little news they hear implies a massive scale. In the opening sequence, readers meet the brothers as they lower themselves to collecting toilet water to drink, as they were recently robbed of their father’s entire (extensive) supply stash. They encounter a sister-brother duo, Cleverly and Will, and—even though John knows that they barely have the supplies to make the three-day, 96-mile titular journey to salvation—the brothers decide allowing the other kids to join is what is right to do. Along the journey, they face general hardships of desert hiking with insufficient water as well as human threats. Thankfully, these latter are given conflicting motives, which increases tension. Another conflict source is Stew’s defeatist behavior, which is at odds with John’s descriptions of him—and, in a twist, is revealed to have a very good cause. The story focuses on the themes of the kids’ journey, and while the ending provides hope, readers looking for answers to the blackout will be disappointed. The characters default to white, though there’s disability representation in the form of characters with Type I diabetes.

For readers thirsting for a fresh survival story.

(Adventure. 8-13)