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Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0264-9
Publisher: Candlewick

A teen journeys into the wilderness searching for a lost friend.

It’s been four months since Nate’s pal Dodge disappeared in a terrible boating accident. Nate’s been haunted by nightmares ever since, desperate for closure over his friend’s demise. Armed with survivalist skills his father, Burl (the main character of the author’s 1995 book, The Maestro), taught him from a young age, Nate travels to his family’s secluded camp only to find it already occupied by some nefarious characters: a trio of felons who’ve escaped from a nearby prison. Trapped by a winter storm and joined by a mysterious ally, Nate is forced to use his smarts and unique skills to make it out alive. There’s a lot going on here, and the disparate elements never effectively congeal. The beginning of the tale reads more like an equipment checklist and some smart survival tips strung along a simple adventure narrative, but when the story pivots toward an emotional, introspective tone, there’s no foundation beneath it. Readers itching for an adventure story will be bored by the ponderous passages, and those uninterested in outdoorsy pursuits won’t make it past the field-guide nature of the first 50 or so pages. The book assumes a white default.

A misfire. (Survival fiction. 12-16)