This engaging survival, disaster book is also a study of social dynamics and society’s response to catastrophe. Some rise to the occasion and some fail miserably. Set in the small town of Monument, Colorado, a sudden massive hailstorm hits with hailstones enormous enough to crash in the school bus roof. Two school buses are forced off the road and into the parking lot of a superstore (think Walmart) where one crashes yielding casualties and death and the other drives through the closed store doors. A series of natural disasters have rocked the world throwing the world into mass chaos. The fourteen grades K-12 surviving students represent many races and social types: smart, jocks, flirtatious, shy, etc. The closed superstore creates a safe haven from the storm until mass chaos breaks out. The nearby biochemical warfare storage unit has sprung a leak releasing gasses that cause hallucinations or extreme violence. The students have to seal off the air to keep them safe but also closed off from any possible help from the outside. They elect a leader, develop daily routines and deal with one problem after another. It’s a good read. The target audience, teens, will gobble this one up. The characters are spot on, the dialog is credible, the action is non-stop. Told from Dean’s perspective, who describes himself as rather wimpy and just average, is an everyday kid who rises to the occasion. I rooted for NIco, the boy scout at every turn. In a disaster, turn to the scouts! It is important to suspend belief in many parts of the plot and story. (The parents head off to the airport without retracing the school bus route and finding their kids?) It’s fun to think about having the run of a superstore. Most would behave exactly like the kids in the book do. Until the older teens discovered the store’s alcohol and pharmacy’s pain medication, this book was perfectly fine for grades 6 and up. There are some sexual situations but not overly explicit. Well-written and non-stop, I enjoyed it.
NetGalley review Publication date 6.5.12
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