Review Detail

Kids Fiction 83
A Wild Ride!
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Daniel isn't all that sure why he was chosen to go on an outdoor experience trip with four other students from the brand new middle school he will be attending, but he's glad to get a break from his responsibilities at home. Project Future Leaders also includes Mia; a quiet and studious girl, Imani; who says very little in order to keep her identity a secret, Deke; a monumental jerk; and Tony, a boy who just follows along with Deke's behavior. Their leaders are Sky, who runs white water rafting trips in Montana, and Cindi Beacon, a famous soccer player. Early on, they run into snags. The river they were originally going to travel was too shallow, so they head 100 miles over to the Crazy, and the satellite phone the leaders have isn't working. They start off in rafts, and it's an interesting trip for children from New Hampshire. Of course, things don't go smoothly for long, and when a local dam breaks, things become truly treacherous. Sky and Cindi are both swept away in the waters after getting the students to safely, and leaving them with a back pack of supplies. From the beginning, Deke is a self serving jerk who doesn't want to follow Mia's plan to conserve food, since he is sure they will be saved soon. This ends in one tragedy, and Imani, Mia and Daniel have to use their strategies not only to confront mountain lions, bears, torrential rains, and a lack of supplies, but also to keep Deke from being a danger to himself and others. When they find Cindi badly injured, Deke does step up to carry her, but will the group be able to locate help in time?
Good Points
Survival books are always popular, and there weren't many new ones for a while, so I'm glad to see the resurgence of this genre. Philbrick himself has the great The Big Dark (2016) and Wildfire (2019), which were both excellent. While there are some philosophical moments in this (Daniel and Imani are both dealing with some issues; Daniel's involve his father, who has bipolar disorder), this cuts right to the chase. It also offers teasers about the horrible things that will happen, which work very well for the target demographic. The Montana landscape is well described, and the children work together well to try to survive. The exception is, of course, the horrid Deke, who learns his lesson in the hardest way possible. The cover of this is fantastic, and I can see this being a wildly popular title.

This was similar to Lambert's Distress Signal in that the adults made some bad moves. There were two deaths in this, if you have very sensitive readers.

While there aren't as many details about rafting as I had hoped, this was an excellent survival adventure with lots of details about survival tactics, some stupendous interpersonal drama, and children saving the day. This is a great choice for readers who like Henry's Playing with Fire, Behrens' Alone in the Woods and Disaster Days, Teagan's Survivor Girl, and Johnson's Ice Dogs.
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