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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

7 Teens + 1 Vicious Nor'easter + 1 School With No Heat, Electricity or Cell Reception = 1 Desperate Struggle for Survival

(Image from Indiebound)

While falling snow is, arguably, one of the most beautiful sights to behold, it doesn't take much to turn a few gentle flakes into a fierce, driving nor'easter. It's just a fact of life in New England. Fifteen-year-old Scotty Weems has heard the old-timers at the coffee shop yapping about the "big ones" enough to know how dangerous, how deadly the storms can become. Which is why he's a little concerned when school's released early due to an oncoming storm and he's still waiting for his ride to show two hours later. As the snow piles up around Tattawa High School, it becomes obvious that Scotty and the six others who didn't escape in time, are stranded. Trapped. With no cell phone reception, no electricity, and no hope of rescue, the only thing they can do is hunker down until the storm subsides.

When it becomes clear the blizzard won't be abating any time soon, the kids have to face the facts: they're stuck at school for the forseeable future. Food isn't really a problem, but staying warm's getting more and more difficult. Then, there's the missing teacher, the hacking coughs that could spell illness for everyone, and the roof that's slowly collapsing under the weight of all the snow. Completely cut off from the outside world, the kids can only rely on themselves. With some people flirting, some fighting, and some immobilized by fear, it's going to be a long, hard fight for survival. One that will have devastating consequences.

In Trapped, Michael Northrop's sophomore novel (which releases February 1), the author returns to Tattawa High School, the setting of his first book, Gentlemen. As he told me on his blog, "Just when I thought I was out, Tattawa pulled me back in! I already felt so familiar with and invested in that setting that I thought, you know, why not pound it into submission with a massive blizzard? I guess I’m just sentimental that way…" The new characters are on a higher social tier than the last bunch, but they're still struggling with a situation that's quickly spiraling out of their control. Scotty's an engaging hero, whose voice rings mostly true. His self-deprecating humor makes him likable, while providing some levity in spite of the story's increasing tension. While the plot does drag a little in places (after all, there's not a lot to do in a dark, cold, empty school building), and the characters never develop enough for me (especially the girls), it's still a pretty intense ride.

If it wasn't for the ending, I would leave it at that, recommending Trapped as a compelling novel guaranteed to suck in even the most reluctant readers. However, there's the small issue of the book's finale. The last 100 pages is where the story really starts getting good and intense. It stays that way until the last page where it just abruptly cuts off. Now, my copy is an ARC, so there's a chance I'm missing a chapter or two. I hope that's the case, because otherwise I'm going to have to call this conclusion one of the most ambigious, least satisfying ends I've ever read. This kind of survival story really doesn't lend itself well to sequels, so I have a sinking suspicion I'm never going to know what happens to the gang at the school. I've never liked those cop-out "What do you think happened?" finales, I want the author to spell it out for me. Darn it, Northrop, and I was really starting to like you ...

(Readalikes: Although Trapped is not dystopian,the survival aspect reminded me of Susan Beth Pfeffer's The Last Survivors series)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG-13 for some language (no F-bombs), suggestive humor and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Trapped from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!


  1. Wow sounds like an interesting read. WOuld have been perfect for the big snowstorm we had a few days ago. Bummer that I only learned about it now! Thanks for posting. I will keep a look out on this book.

  2. I wish I had this book to read when we had a snowday the other day at work, and I was hanging around the units with my students reading & watching movies- would've been such a perfect fit!!

    Thanks for reviewing this- Im sure I never would've found this book otherwise!


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