I was completely engrossed in this book, jaw open and dangling, heart beating a bit too quickly, and everything up until maybe the 70% mark. Then a few things happened that made me knock off a star and a half but those were probably things peculiar to me, alone, and won't bother other readers.
So, here's the story: We start with a kid who is trying to tame his fear of heights when he finds a dead body and some killers. There is no wading into this tale, it is all SMACK! POW! in your face right away. I was impressed.
As for the cast, we've got two evil, creepyass brothers,
who talk like this
especially in the audiobook (which, later, becomes a highly-apt association and probably where the reader and perhaps even the author got the speech patterns
a former SERE trainer and his tough, kickass wife, a bunch of troubled kids in the ready-to-conflagrate mountains of drought-ridden Montana, and a damanged wildlands firefighter. Suspense builds as the cats start out after their nervous-but-hopeful mice and wind up getting a few other rodents along the way. In addition, there's a big, ol' forest fire and the storm season is here so that means lightning strikes all over the place and you know what? It's all going to come together to be suspenseful and thrilling. Who will survive? Not the pine trees, I can assure you.
Is this fine literature? Of course it's not. Is it highly entertaining and easy to comprehend? Why, yes it is! The writing style is fast, there's enough description so you get the gist of the situation but you're left to paint the rest of the picture yourself most times; it's all perfect for this type of story.
The gripes I had that did NOT lead to de-starring:
-I know the story wouldn't have been intense had there been more reality applied, but how did so many people get into a wild fire zone during the burning? When our fires hit, we get put into serious lockdown and when it gets close, evacuation. Apparently, Montana does things differently. "Oh, well, this mountain is burning down and it's pretty dry up there and windy and so we expect this place to go up like hell, but, you know, just stick to the trails and such. You'll be fine. Don't dehydrate." Um, no.
-I was never clear on time and distance in this place. I'm not sure how everyone managed to make it as far as they always did or seemed to go in the right direction and meet up with the people with whom they met up...night and day and travel distance didn't seem to mesh in my head. I was skeptical.
-If there's a forest fire on a mountain, things around the mountain do not get dark at night. It glows for miles. There should have been more glow, more noise, more heat, more smoke while everyone was out in the wilderness as it burned. That bugged me a bit.
-Really? A native American tracker? Because that's really all Native Americans can do if they work for the forest service, you know. They're all trackers. <--sarcasm.
But those things did not keep me from loving these things:
-Jace. Man, that kid is no dummy. Did he know things beyond his age? Maybe, but remember, he's been studying survival on his own for awhile because he's paranoid about what happens when one is not aware of one's surroundings. Plus, some kids are just clever. He's one of them. I liked that a lot.
-Allison. Wow. Well, up until the part that made me roll my eyes because come on, she's not the terminator. Still. Wow.
-Hannah. My neighbor is a hot shot. At least for now; he's soon to be not my neighbor and not a hot shot because he just got a different job in another state. But right now, he's on fires, he's like Hannah. I've heard some stories. Nothing in-depth, of course, but I like to know about what he and his team are doing out there, right up with the fire, fighting it back, moving it forward. It's incredibly interesting. Some of Hannah's knowledge mirrored some of those stories. That was neat.
-There are good how-to-be-in-the-wilderness tips throughout, which made me very happy. There are also some bad ones (really, seriously, please NEVER practice your fire-building skills while in drought-ridden pine forests. Just don't do it for any reason at all ever)
-That horrible, almost deliciously-awful irony of footwear choice. So much cleverness leading to so much NO NO NO-ness when it was supposed to be the exact opposite.
Based on all that, this is a solid 4, maybe 4.5 star story.
Here's why it's only 3 for me, and seriously, I'm going to spill secrets so if you don't want to know, do NOT open the spoiler:
1. Just, no. A burn victim who has had the shit smacked out of her is not going horseriding the next day, not even to find her husband and another woman's missing child. No, the hospital is not going to let her sign herself out. In fact, why is she even awake? Shouldn't they have her drugged up and sleeping so she can heal? She is burned up, full of smoke, and her jaw is broken. I had a really hard time with her and what's-her-head going horseback riding into the wilderness to find fire, children, and husbands. Just...no.
NO! That's dumb! Ok, I didn't quite buy that what's-her-name was Jace's mom but, really? REALLY? In the words of Dr. Evil, "Rigoddamndiculous" One star died right there.
3. Hannah's sentimental end. I was all ensaddened until that point and then I was pissed off because I could hear some editor somewhere going, "No. This is too harsh. She's been a hero. You've gotta give her something, man. You know in that scene in Beetlejuice where the football team all shows up in solidarity? Yeah, make it like that. That will make this all sappier and the girls will cry and everyone will love this book. They'll make it into a movie. Just don't make it so horrible and realistic, for the love of all things safe and undamaging." Well, F-U, editor. We don't all need candy to get over our boo boos. Sometimes, we have to bleed and we have to deal. Stop softening the blow.
karen, I think you're going to like this one, probably for the same things I liked. Survival tips! Hooray!
I do NOT
recommend this for residents of Washington, Oregon, or Utah this summer and definitely not for anyone who is still tender about the firefighters in AZ last year.