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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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29 / 51 states. 57% done!

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26 / 50 books. 52% done!

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27 / 40 books. 68% done!

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

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13 / 26.2 miles. 50% done!

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

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68 / 104 books. 65% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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44 / 52 books. 85% done!

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74 / 165 books. 45% done!
Friday, March 19, 2021

Middle-Grade Dystopian/Survival Story Riveting and Thought-Provoking

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As the sons of an avid survivalist, 13-year-old John Lockwood and his younger brother, Stewart, know how to cope with any doomsday scenario.  Not that they'll really need their father's advice about boiling toilet water and using yucca leaves to wash their clothes.  After all, Dad has stocked their home with enough supplies to last for two apocalypses.  The three of them can ride out any disaster in their isolated desert house, no problem.  

Then the power goes out—and stays out—while Mr. Lockwood is out of town.  No one knows what's going on, but it soon becomes clear to John that he and Stew are on their own.  Although John is concerned, he doesn't start to panic until a group of strangers invades his home, robbing the boys of all their food, water, and emergency supplies.  With no other choice, Johan and Stew are forced to stuff what little they have left into into their backpacks and set off across the desolate Nevada desert.  Help lies 96 miles away at the ranch of some family friends who will surely come to their aid.  It's a long journey, fraught with danger.  If they can survive the blistering heat, gnawing hunger, rabid thirst, feral animals, and desperate people they encounter, maybe just maybe, they can make it there in one piece.  As the grim days wear on, however, their chances of living through their ordeal grow slimmer and slimmer...

Growing up with a Secret Service agent who was obsessed with emergency preparedness, J.L. Esplin was born to write this kind of debut novel.  96 Miles is infused with real survival strategies that will fascinate anyone who's ever wondered what to do in a disaster scenario.  These tips add an intriguing element to the story, which is already taut, tense, and compelling.  John is a sympathetic character who's brave and resolute, even while he struggles under the pressure of making decisions in a brutal situation where the consequences of every choice can be dire.  He's determined to save his brother no matter what the cost, which makes him an appealing, root-worthy hero.  Although 96 Miles is a pretty straightforward dystopian/survival novel, there is a story swerve toward the end that caught me by surprise (although it really shouldn't have, considering...) and upped the ante for the boys considerably.  With an engrossing plot, likable characters, and skilled storytelling, 96 Miles is a riveting, immersive read.  Not only is it entertaining, but it's also thought-provoking, asking intriguing questions like:  How would I handle a crisis situation?  How would I act as things became increasingly desperate?  Would I keep my carefully-stocked supplies to myself or share them with others?  What decisions would I be forced to make and would I be able to live with myself afterward?  These discussion-worthy themes are just one more element that makes 96 Miles an excellent read.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, Alone by Megan E. Freeman, Dry by Neal Shusterman, and other middle-grade/YA dystopian/survival novels)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence, scary situations, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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