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Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review: Trapped by Michael Northrop

Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 240 pages 
Publisher: Scholastic Press (February 1, 2011) 
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound
Read an excerpt

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive....
Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn't seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision....

Book Opening:
"We were the last seven kids waiting around to get picked up from Tattawa Regional High School. It sounds like an everyday thing, but this wasn't an ordinary day."

Notable Quote:
"It would've seemed impossible, even just a few days ago, but the snow was maybe three feet below the second-floor window-sill. I looked out. How long would it take to reach the windows?" It was already drifting up against some of them. Could it keep going long enough to cover them, like it'd covered the ones downstairs? There was no higher ground, no place left for us to go." – Page 158 ARC version

I thought TRAPPED was realistic and eye-opening. But to be completely honest, I went into the book anticipating something different than what I actually got. I was expecting a book with intense action and heart-pounding scenes – something you'd expect to see in a movie with a similar plot line. When I first read the synopsis, I could just see the movie trailer in my mind. You'd have a group of teens trying to survive and overcome all sorts of trials and tribulations, complete with action, suspense and danger. But TRAPPED is not that kind of book at all. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. But, if you are expecting some sort of romanticized "snowed-in" plot-line complete with love triangles and happy endings (like me), this is probably not going to be the best book for you. There are more important things going on in TRAPPED than who likes whom and many of the decisions the teens make don't always work out for the best. 

While reading the book, I kept envisioning myself sitting across from main protagonist Scotty at a coffee shop. I'd be trying to listen patiently to his story, but secretly frustrated that he was taking forever to get to the good parts! This was how the pacing flowed to me. It seemed like Scotty ambled along recounting every little mundane thing at such a leisurely pace for the first hundred pages or so. But then towards the end when the action did in fact heat up, it all came crashing to a halt so quickly it made my head spin!  To be honest, I wasn't satisfied with the ending of TRAPPED. I think that Northrop ground the story to a halt too quickly and there wasn't enough closure for the reader.

TRAPPED was a novel of desperation and survival. It messes with your mind. You begin to feel the searing cold, the haunting ache of hunger from lack of food, the ache in your back from lack of good sleep, and the anguish of not knowing when it will all end. In that aspect, Northrop's writing was spot on for me. He excelled in painting a realistic picture of a what a real-life survival situation would feel like. He also did a great job writing realistic teenage voices. The way the characters interacted and talked with one another seemed highly plausible to me. However, there were also a lot of references to things I never want to have mentioned again - such as zit-popping and "turtling"! (So not my cup of tea.

While I can't say this was a huge hit for me, I do think Fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer will appreciate elements of TRAPPED, and no doubt lie awake brain-storming what they'd do in a blizzard or other natural disaster.   

Books by Michael Northrop

Gentlemen (Push Fiction)
Michael Northrop has written short fiction for WEIRD TALES, the NOTRE DAME REVIEW, and MCSWEENEY'S. His debut novel, GENTLEMEN, earned him a PW Flying Start. An editor at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED KIDS for many years, he now writes full-time from his home in New York City. You can visit him online at www.michaelnorthrop.net.


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I love that you imagined him telling you the story at a coffee shop. What a delightful idea/bit to your review. Bravo!

Charmaine Clancy said...

When I saw the cover I thought something adventurous and spooky would happen too. I think it can come down to making sure your reader knows what kind of novel they are getting into. When I first watched The Shawshank Redemption, I kept waiting for the supernatural monster to appear because it was based on a Stephen King book. I had to watch it a second time to appreciate the movie as a good example of drama not horror.