by Dee Garretson
Grades 4 and up
Reviewed from copy received from author in giveaway.
All opinions here expressed are solely my own.
This is Stefan's big break. He's on location in the mountains far from home for his first movie role, filming a blockbuster sci-fi adventure. The props, the spaceships, and the trained wolves on set should add up to a dream job, but acting turns out to be much tougher than he ever imagined, and he feels like his inner loser is all that's showing through. From the way his famously stuck-up co-star, Raine, treats him, he's pretty sure she thinks so too. And worst of all, no one will believe his claim that there are wild wolves haunting the forest around the set. When a blizzard strikes, isolating the young co-stars and bringing hungry feral wolves into the open, Stefan must take on his biggest role yet--working together with his co-stars to survive. With no second takes, they only have one chance to get it right.
I'm not particularly fond of scary stories, especially not the horror genre, but I do love survival stories. I'm not sure why, because I also love my creature comforts, but for whatever reason, I do love survival stories. This particular survival story I enjoyed, especially because it's very different than others I've read.
First, the location, Slovakia is not one I've ever seen in a middle grade/young adult book, or in any book come to think of it. Garretson does a fabulous job of creating the setting. I could practically feel the cold. It made me want to curl up in bed with a nice cup of hot chocolate. At the same time, I felt a strong urge to explore the partially restored lodge that Stefan and his co-stars, Raine, and Jeremy are staying in. For a survival story to really work, at least in my opinion, the setting needs to be carefully depicted. Garretson does a great job of that.
Second, characters, Stefan immediately becomes a sympathetic character as he struggles with his acting. Anyone whose made mistakes in front of any kind of audience can relate to Stefan's feelings of incompetence. And yet, Stefan, is desperate to succeed as an actor because his family desperately needs the money. Raine comes off at first as a spoiled star, yet as the book proceeds it's fun to see another, rather unexpected side of her. Let's just say, Stefan's frustrations with her are not surprising, if rather amusing (later in the book). At first, Raine just made me roll my eyes, but later I came to like her and she seemed much more down to earth. Jeremy is a nice addition to the story, as a bright and caring individual.
In order for a survival story to work, the plot needs to be believable however unlikely it might be. I found this particular plot quite believable. People underestimating the weather, unexpected events, how often do those things happen in real life. All too often unfortunately. The mishaps on the set I had no problem accepting as I'm sure this type of thing happens in the real world, especially when working with tamed(?) animals like wolves. I do have to say that I wondered how Stefan and the others would end up in a survival situation, when they had the lodge to stay in, with or without electricity, the building offered shelter. But the author takes care of that nicely. Overall, I found the plot moved along nicely and in quite a believable way.
While the story is certainly not the most intense I've ever read, I think it provides a nice combination of character development and action for those students who crave such, while not being too scary for students who dislike that sort of thing. I'd definitely recommend this book for those who enjoy adventure stories.