In the Red

HarperCollins. Mar. 2020. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062894410.
Gr 6 Up–Panic attacks have kept Michael Prasad from getting his space suit certification and keep him locked inside the safety of the Mars colony. But after he nearly passes the advanced qualifying test, his best friend Lilith arranges for them to sneak out onto the surface. One stolen rover and a long jaunt later, a solar flare knocks out all communication and navigation, leaving them stranded with little food or water and a quickly depleting oxygen tank. All they have now are their wits and Michael’s knowledge of navigation and locations of possible sources of supplies from outlying facilities. Working together is the only way they might make it back to the colony alive. Michael and Lilith are well-written characters with whom students will quickly identify. While their decision to “borrow” a rover isn’t well thought out, their teamwork and ingenuity in the face of danger are admirable. This is a wonderful adventure novel filled with so many twists and turns that it seems the characters very well may not survive. The story manages to invoke a real sense of danger, and at times hopelessness, as the teens fight to survive a hostile environment without help or resources. The writing is reminiscent of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet and Andy Weir’s The Martian—it maintains a skillful blend of science and survivalism to keep readers engaged and invested in the outcome.
VERDICT A smart choice to read individually or as a group to further explore the possibilities of life on Mars and the science behind the fiction.

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