First in the Stranded series
By Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts
Available now from Puffin (Penguin)
If you're like my mom and me, then you took a look at this cover and went, "Jeff Probst? Like Survivor?" Yes, the host of Survivor has written a middle grade book with the help of Chris Tebbetts. Unsurprisingly, it involves people stuck on an island.
Vanessa and Buzz Diaz's father married Carter and Jane Benson's mother, making them all siblings. As a gift, their Uncle Dexter offered to take the kids on a cruise during the honeymoon, giving them time to bond. While Buzz and Carter are the same age, they're very different. Carter is more athletic and active, whereas Buzz prefers to stay belowdecks. Jane is cute, but too young to be interested in the same things as the others, whereas Vanessa is too old.
Then the kids are forced to work together when the boat runs aground during a large storm and they're separated from Uncle Dex and his first mate. Because the boat changed directions several times trying to outrun the storm, the authorities only have a general idea where the kids are. It could be a long time before help arrives.
STRANDED is a terrific high interest, low effort novel. The kids keep barely escaping total disaster, which keeps the pages turning. Plus they represent a range of personalities, somewhat shallowly drawn but easily identified with. I particularly like Jane, who contributes to their survival just as much as the others by being observant and thoughtful.
I felt STRANDED was a bit short. It's nearly two hundred pages long, but the print is large. Just when things really got going, it ended. I suppose that's the way of this sort of adventure series for young readers. I think kids who like this one will be eager to read TRIAL BY FIRE in June in order to figure out how the kids face the dangers of the island.
STRANDED doesn't have much to interest older readers, but it's a good choice for younger, reluctant readers. It's easy to read and exciting.