Klaassen (The Frog Prince, 2017, etc.) tells the story of a troubled teenager forced to survive after a natural disaster in this YA novel.
Sixteen-year-old delinquent Bodie McCann is on an excursion to explore a cave system as part of his community-service sentence for driving under the influence. He’s accompanied by a judge, a fireman, a couple of policemen, and four other troubled teens; the judge’s idea, according to Bodie, is to “take a bunch of guys out in the woods and let them experience nature—to open their eyes to the world and to encourage each of them to turn his life around before it was too late.” The group is deep underground when things go horribly wrong: an earthquake shakes the cave, killing all the adults and leaving the teens to find their own way out alive. Bodie—who isn’t quite as nihilistic as he wants people to think—is an experienced camper, and his survival skills turn out to be a tremendous boon for the group. But on their way back to civilization, the boys confront all manner of obstacles, from aftershocks and forest fires to animal attacks and armed outlaws. To survive, Bodie will also need to negotiate the tenuous dynamic between himself and his peers, who may not have his best interests at heart. The novel unfolds smoothly thanks to Klaassen’s direct, accessible prose, which adeptly captures the story’s action sequences: “Boys and men shouted as more bits of rock tumbled onto them. Wavering beams of light revealed a cloud of dust. A massive column wobbled and snapped at the narrow midpoint.” A few aspects of the novel seem rough or outdated, such as distracting mentions of characters’ skin color and a few slang terms, such as “butthead.” But the violent, eventful plot is compelling and quite unlike other titles in the contemporary YA market. It’s a sort of Deliverance for younger readers, and those who find that idea appealing will likely enjoy this often brutal book.
An immersive YA novel about teens attempting to survive increasingly extreme scenarios.