I was one of the millions of people worldwide who watched Richard Hatch irritate, dominate, and win the first season of television’s epic reality show pioneer, Survivor. After that, I watched a few seasons, then tapered off to other things, and came back to it again after a few years, once I realized that they’ve somehow figured out how to keep each season fresh and new, even when there are returning players involved. Survivor’s enigmatic host, Jeff Probst, has long been a favourite of mine (especially as he seems to be much more sarcastically fun as the seasons pass by), so when I got the opportunity to read and review this first book in his Stranded series, I jumped at the chance.
Stranded is an adventure novel targeted primarily for middle grade readers, but as a fan of Survivor – and of shipwrecked/island tales in general – I found this book to be a highly enjoyable read for adults, as well. And who better to tell a story of survival than the man who has watched and grown to know so many survivors himself, over the years?
The book opens on the sailing ship, the Lucky Star, and we are introduced to the four young protagonists of this incredible journey, Vanessa, Buzz, Carter and Jane. The four are siblings in a recently blended family, and they are taken sailing in the South Pacific by their Uncle Dex as a way of helping them bond more while on vacation together. Close to the halfway mark of their jaunt, however, the boat gets tossed about by a particularly vicious storm, and the children are accidentally separated from the adults on the open sea. Their boat runs aground on a small volcanic island, with no help in sight, and the children are left to fend for themselves.
It doesn’t take long for them to realize that they’ll all need to get along and support one another if any of them are to have a hope of surviving long enough for rescuers to find them – a notion complicated by the fact that they were blown off course by the storm, and no one really knows where they are anymore. Soon, even something as simple as clean drinking water becomes a harrowing battle for survival, and the four children must keep all their wits about them to make it through each day alive.
Each of the characters is a fully realized individual, and each has their own strengths and weaknesses which are put to the test right from the start. It was easy to find characteristics in each child that I could relate to, and it made their predicament instantly important to me as a reader. The locations, scenery and weather are all familiar to fans of Survivor, and I sense that the need to make fire is about to become pretty dire. I love that little Jane is so smart, and I suspect she will be the one to figure the fire thing out, but in the meantime, she and her siblings are all demonstrating what I feel is one of the most important themes of all. Each person contributes to the group’s survival in their own way, but none of them could do it all if they were alone. More people need to learn that lesson, I think!
The story itself is fast-paced and exciting, which made the whole book fly by quickly, and as soon as I finished the last page, I found myself wishing that I already had the next book in the series so I could continue the adventure right away! So come join us and get lost together – you’ll be glad you did!
Stranded is available now from Penguin Canada, and its sequel, Stranded #2: Trial By Fire is due out June 18, 2013.