Thursday, March 17, 2011

Review - Trapped by Michael Northrop

Summary (from Goodreads): The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive....

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision....

I chose to read this book because, well, I love survival stories. I have to admit, I’ve thought more than once about how long the contents of my pantry would last in a disaster. Also, my area had just got hit with a snow storm (hopefully the last of the season) that took us from muddy grass to a thick blanket of white overnight. It was kind of an awesome time to be curling up in the chilly basement, reading about surviving a giant nor’easter. It got to the point where I had to put the book down and turn on the TV just to convince myself that we hadn’t lost power like the characters in the book (even though at that point, I was reading under electric lights and drinking hot coffee and it had stopped snowing hours ago… clearly my situation was not dire).

A chilling story (sorry for the pun, not intended). Not so much action-packed but there is an underlying sense of urgency throughout the book. How long will the storm last? What will they do about heat, food, rescue… And does anyone even know they’re at the school?!?

I would have rated this book better if there had just been one more chapter. The ending was unnecessarily jarring and abrupt. It wasn't about finding out "what happened next". I can guess enough to be satisfied (mostly). It was that things happened quickly toward the end. There were even super-short chapters to quicken the pace, and then it was done. End of story. The book desperately needed one more chapter to unwind the tension the climax of the story had built up. As it was, I felt cheated out of an ending.

The whole story was told in a "let me tell you about" tone, very conversational. From the beginning we, the readers, got spoilers of things to come, from comments liked “we didn’t know it at the time but…”. It added an extra bit of creepy, especially when the narrator says things like “our numbers would only get smaller from here”. This also made the abrupt ending even more annoying… our narrator didn’t do anything to catch us up to his “now” even though we know he’s telling us this story after at least a little time had passed.

I enjoyed the group dynamic, how the characters change how they interact when suddenly their world is down to just seven kids: Les, the trouble-maker; Elijah, the weird goth kid; two girls: beautiful Krista and her friend Julie; our narrator, Scotty; and his two friends, Pete and Jason. Kids who normally wouldn’t have known much about each other are suddenly relying on each other for survival. Social hierarchy isn’t completely gone, though, just different. The little groups of friends still stick together mostly, and the presence of girls in the room get the guys tangled up in knots. But Jason’s knowledge of construction and home repairs is suddenly an asset. They learn Les’ has more of a problem with rules and adults than other kids. And the goth kid’s not really goth at all, just different, even funny.

Bottom line: It's an entertaining survival story with an annoyingly abrupt ending.

Lit Snit Verdict: C (but would have been a B+ if only there had been an ending)

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