Children's Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What Do We Do in Dire Circumstances?

When life can't get any worse, what would you do? I've often wondered. We all go through those moments when life feels like it can't get any worse. Somehow, someway most of us find a way through it all. I've recently read two books: Cracks by Mike Klaassen. Remember his book, The Brute, I reviewed earlier? Mike has written another book which is even more gripping, and where you wonder if Bodie, the teen protagonist, can come out with his life, never mind redemption. Mike tell it like it is! This is refreshing. The other book is for adults, A Matter of Time, by Don Kirchner. Don is the protagonist in the book of his real life story that reads like a novel. Both Don and Bodie are good people who have made bad choices and who face themselves as they face terror in their dire circumstances. Both books are reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, one with teenagers on a wilderness rehabilitation camping trip and the other a man in Federal prison.

When, while reading Cracks, it gets so intense that one wants to put the book down for a breather. One can’t. It is too gripping a read. One natural disaster after another happens to a group of five boys who are deemed potentially rehabitable, but can they be redeemed? Will they survive the disasters as well as the vengeance they reap upon one another?
The boys are taken on a spelunking trip deep into the caves of the remote Arkansas Ozarks. The first earthquake hits while the boys and their leaders are still deep in the caves. They escape only to watch their adult leaders killed in another earthquake causing a landslide to fall on them. The boys are on their own, and the only boy who has some survival skills is Bodie McCann whose foster father had previously taken him camping and fishing. Bodie soon learns that the other four boys savagely sabotage his attempts to help them escape and incessantly fight with one another, though they begrudgingly accept the food he finds and hunts for them.
Matters only get worse as the boys face more earthquakes, forest fires, and then find a cache of marijuana in a hidden mountain cabin. When they ransack another house, Bodie sees his foster parents on the T.V., begging for him to come home. The other boys refuse to let him go, so he has to run for it with them chasing him with guns and knives. Will he escape, get home, and mend his ways? Mike Klaassen has written another adventurous, powerful book. Cracks is a book young boys will relate to, knowing that there is always hope for their future in spite of the direst circumstances. This book is must read for young people and for counselors leading youth rehabilitation groups.


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