Evacuation Order

Scholastic. Nov. 2023. 176p. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781338629347.
Gr 4-7–Separated from their families, Sam Durand, along with his best friend Marco Nuñez and dog Goodboy, navigate the California streets when a wildfire threatens their small town of Santa Bonita. Equipped with limited supplies and faced with a series of challenges, such as losing Goodboy and a flat tire, Sam is determined to be reunited with his mom before it’s too late. The novel has a slow build and offers different perspectives of characters grappling with the growing flames, including Marco’s firefighter cousin, Gabi, and a young deer desperately seeking refuge. While the book’s premise is gripping, the plot plays out with one-dimensional characterization. Sam’s story revolves around his obsession with recreating his deceased photographer father’s old pictures, and many facets of that, including his relationship with his grieving mother, lack exploration. The depth of Sam and Marco’s friendship is emphasized by Marco leaving safety with his own family to be with Sam, but his frustrations and the subsequent confrontation feel unresolved. Race of the characters is unknown, though the Nuñez family is perceived as Latinx.
VERDICT Fans of survival stories like Alan Gratz's books and the “I Survived” series may appreciate this action-packed quick read despite lackluster characterization.

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