Book Reviews, Lists, Discussions, and Displays

Tag: April Henry

Book Review: Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire – April Henry – Henry Holt and Co – Published 19 January 2021

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Synopsis

Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.

But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.

My thoughts

Fires, bush, wild, deliberately lit and with devastating impacts, are a fact of life for many. You have only to look to the previous summer or two to see the evidence of their far reaching effects. Sadly, so many of them are deliberately lit or caused by stupidity or carelessness and that is exactly what happens in Playing With Fire. The book does a fantastic job of exploring the horrific consequences of fires and the importance of treating it responsibly, without being sanctimonious, and all  within the plot of adventure and survival.

Natalia knows first hand just how bad fire can be. She survived the house fire that killed her baby brother, but she carries the heavy burden of guilt and grief. When she goes hiking with her co-worker Wyatt, she is both prepared and playing it safe. She could never have planned for a wildfire that blocks them in with no choice to trek deeper into the woods, trying to outrun the flames. 

Natalia and Wyatt are not alone. With them are the others in the same clearing. From different walks of life and some not at all prepared for a fast and dangerous race through thick terrain. Wyatt and Natalia make a great team. It’s easy to see their connection, though Natalia is playing it safe and keeping the walls up around her heart, knowing Wyatt may not look at her in the same way once he knows the truth about what her past holds. 

As Natalia faces the wildfires, she has flashbacks to six years ago and the fire that changed her life. This allows the reader to learn more about why she fears fire so much and the trauma she is facing now she is confronted with flames again.

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Book Review: The Girl in the White Van

The Girl In the White Van – April Henry – Henry Holt and Company – Published 28 July 2020

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Synopsis

When Savannah disappears soon after arguing with her mom’s boyfriend, everyone assumes she’s run away. The truth is much worse. She’s been kidnapped by a man in a white van who locks her in an old trailer home, far from prying eyes. And worse yet, Savannah’s not alone: Ten months earlier, Jenny met the same fate and nearly died trying to escape. Now as the two girls wonder if he will hold them captive forever or kill them, they must join forces to break out—even if it means they die trying.

My thoughts

Girl in the White Van is exactly the kind of book I am always on the lookout for to add to our mystery/thriller YA collection. It is an engaging, quick read, with strong characters. Girl in the White Van is a thrilling book. Scary but hopefully, dark and gritty but full of empowerment and a sense of justice.

Savannah is just waiting until she turns 18 and she can escape her mother’s toxic pattern of moving in with random guys. While she doesn’t love living with her mother’s latest boyfriend, she is enjoying living in Portland. She loves her Kung fu class and is just getting to know one of her classmates, Daniel. But on the way home from class, Savannah is grabbed by a man in a white van. Drugged, hurt and confused, Savannah wakes in an old trailer home. But she isn’t alone. Jenny was taken nine months ago.

While the majority of the chapters are written from Savannah’s perspective, there are also chapters from Jenny, Daniel, Jenny and Savannah’s parents’ perspective and a variety of other side characters, including the suspects. The reader is given an insight into the person responsible, but the mystery of who they are remains and builds the tension.

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