In Jensen’s debut YA thriller, a self-indulgent California high schooler is out of her element in an unfamiliar Honduran jungle—and on the run from human traffickers.
Cheerleader London Carter doesn’t mind flaunting her family’s wealth at school, and she revels in her popularity. Her boyfriend Rivers dumps her mere days before the senior prom, but she quickly finds another date. Unfortunately, he takes her to a party that the cops ultimately raid, landing London in trouble despite the fact that she didn’t take part in the underage drinking or drug use. However, it’s the last straw for her parents, as she’s been in trouble for past misdeeds, including helping a friend cheat on a test. They send her to Honduras for the summer as part of a volunteer program assisting villagers in building a school. London is unprepared for the relative lack of amenities and the daily physical labor. She’s also dismayed to see Oliver Rodriguez, a student from her school who’s smart but arrogant; their mutual dislike is palpable. When armed men suddenly storm the village, both the locals and the volunteers flee. London hides in the jungle and later teams up with Oliver and 5-year-old villager Malaya. They all struggle to escape a human-trafficking drug cartel. Readers won’t initially have much sympathy for the endlessly complaining London, but Jensen ensures that the protagonist has some redeeming qualities. For instance, she’s seemingly immune to peer pressure; she says no to premarital sex, booze, and drugs, and she’s steadfast in her decisions. She’s also very good with children and shows great affinity for Malaya. The author offers lively descriptions of the jungle, which is filled with an array of wildlife, including colorful birds and hairy insects. Nevertheless, the protagonist’s evolution as a character lacks subtlety; at one point, she and Oliver actually discuss how much she’s changed since she left California. Still, it’s delightful to watch the changes unfold, and London’s developing relationship with Oliver is endearing.
A brisk tale of a teen heroine whom readers will grow to like.