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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

MG Survival Story Brings Excitement, Not A Whole Lot Else

(Image from Indiebound)

A storm is always brewing somewhere, just waiting for the right moment to take down 13-year-old Chase Masters. That's how it feels, anyway. First, there was the car accident that killed his mother and younger sister, shattering Chase's world into tiny pieces. Then, his father got struck by lightning, turning the quiet builder into a weather-obsessed survival expert. Now, the two spend their days racing across the country in pursuit of violent hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, all in the name of helping disaster victims. It's exciting work, sure, but Chase wouldn't mind sticking around for once, maybe even completing a whole year at the same school.

That idea flies right out the window the moment John Masters hears about Hurricane Emily. As the storm hurtles its way across the Gulf of Mexico, father and son head to Florida. While his father travels to Saint Petersburg, the spot he's predicting the hurricane will touch down, Chase is stuck at a rural farm, far away from any action. The "farm" has its own intrigues - namely pretty Nicole Rossi - but Chase can't concentrate on anything but Emily. His father always tells Chase to trust his instincts and right now, they're telling him the hurricane's coming. Not to Saint Pete's, but here. Not at midnight, but now. When the storm of the century strikes, it's up to Chase to save himself and his new friends. He knows what to do - theoretically. What will happen when the survival skills that have been drilled into Chase's head are put to the test? Will they be enough to save him from the biggest, baddest hurricane he's ever seen?
It's sort of a given that a story about storm-chasing will be exciting, and Storm Runners, the first book in a new middle grade series by Roland Smith, is most certainly that. The whole disaster-tracking thing, along with some other story elements (*ahem* circus folks), makes for a unique, interesting plot that will appeal to even reluctant readers. Smith focuses mostly on action, though, which makes for potentially complex, but ultimately flat characters as well as mediocre writing. All in all, I liked the concept, wasn't so wild about its execution. Kids will probably eat this one up, though, and I have to admit that I'm liking the series enough to keep reading. I just hope Smith fleshes out his characters a little more, spruces up his storytelling a lot more, and keeps bringing the excitement.
(Readalikes: Reminds me of the I Survived ... series by Lauren Tarshis and a little of The Storm Chasers by Jenna Blum)
Grade: C
If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for intense action
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Storm Runners from the generous folks at Scholastic. Thank you!

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