Review Detail

Kids Fiction 138
Survival on the red planet
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Michael Prasad and his family live on a colony on Mars, under a dome that controls the environment. His father, Manish, works at a ranger station outside of the dome, so he has taken Michael and his brother outside many times. Michael really wants to get his space suit certification, but he had a disastrous experience the one time he tried, and when he sneaks out to take the test again, his second time doesn't go well either. He blacks out, and comes to in the hospital. His parents are understandably angry; he's been diagnosed with anxiety, and has been told that as long as his "condition" of having panic attacks persists, he is not allowed to travel outside the dome. This makes him angry, and he feels like he is letting his father down. When his friend Lilith surprises him by arranging to meet one night near the edge of the dome so that they can travel outside just to look at stars, Michael decides that it's a great time to travel to his dad's station to say "hi". There are some problems going on in the community that are hush hush-- something with solar flares and the magnetic field around Mars perhaps being compromised, but taking off in a rover for a six hour drive should be just fine. Of course, it isn't. When it is unsafe to stay outside in the rover because of the flares, the two try to hide in a cave, and their exploration leads them to a station that has seen problems. They eventually manage to find Randall, a man who worked with Michael's father, and he helps everyone survive in abandoned shelters, living on old curry ready meals and monitoring their space suits for vital stats. Michael takes several very dangerous chances to try to contact his father's station, and doesn't have panic attacks all of the time. Eventually, he and Lilith are in very grave danger; will they be able to survive and make it safely back to the colony?
Good Points
This had a lot of good details about what it would be like to live on Mars, which is something I wanted from Emerson's Last Day on Mars (Chronicle of the Dark Star #1), before that book took off from the planet. I liked that the emergency took place entirely on the planet, and we got to see the various places where people could live. Traveling across Mars was also interesting, and very suspenseful. I really didn't think that Michael and Lilith could possibly survive! This was a fast-paced, quick read for fans of Sylvester's MINRS, Landers' Blastaway, Levy's Seventh Grade vs. The Galaxy and Buzz Aldrin's fantastic nonfiction book, Welcome to Mars.

Young readers will enjoy the fact that Michael does so many really, really stupid things; they'll be putting themselves in his shoes and thinking about how they might make other decisions. It's good to see a discussion of anxiety and panic attacks, and a bit unusual for a speculative fiction title to address these concerns.

Reading books like this make me all the more sure that I don't want to live on another planet, but the details of daily life, the survival in extreme conditions, and the friendship between Michael and Lilith will make this a great choice for young readers who need to escape Earth for a while.
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