A challenging endurance event provides an adopted teen with the perfect opportunity to track down his birth mother.
Still afflicted with frequent nightmares about being stolen 16 years before, Andreo eagerly agrees to join his strangely reticent adoptive parents in a seven-day “adventure race” set, conveniently, in the very area of Bolivia in which he was born. The race itself—which involves segments of mountain biking, trekking, canoeing and even caving—makes absorbing reading but serves largely as a backdrop to Andreo’s stubborn pursuit of his Quechua birth mother’s identity. Beginning with confirmation that he was a black-market baby, his quest leads to involvement with a baby-trafficking ring, puts him in considerable danger but also ultimately brings him face to face with his birth mother, who does not react as he expects her to. In a strenuous effort to engineer happy endings all round (except for the traffickers), Withers contrasts this scene with a different reception given to a similarly adopted teen who is shoehorned into the cast. She closes her tale with a round of fulsome apologies that neatly cements Andreo’s troubled relationship with his adoptive family.
The issues-driven plotline is superimposed rather forcibly on the athletic one—but both feature suspenseful, character-changing incidents. (Fiction. 11-13)