Fire & Flood

320p. Scholastic. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545537469; ebk. $17.99. ISBN 9780545537476. LC 2013014732.
Gr 8 Up—Tella's family has moved from Boston to Montana, hoping the wide-open spaces will help her older brother Cody fight the wasting illness that has plagued him for the past year. Tella receives a mysterious package with a tiny listening device, which tells her that she has been selected as a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed-a three-month, four-ecosystem race in which the winner is guaranteed a cure for any illness. After a stop at an old museum, there is a mad dash among the Contenders to select Pandoras-eggs of various sizes that will assist them in the race. The Pandoras prove invaluable here: there's a fire-breathing lion, a cheetah that shoots out twin beams of red light, and an elephant with the ability to tunnel through sand to find water. Tella learns that her newly-hatched Pandora, a small black fox she calls Maddox, has the ability to mirror the other Pandoras. She and the others are transported to a remote rainforest, where they'll have two weeks to complete the first leg of the race. When the race begins, Tella attempts to follow fellow contestant Guy, but after losing him, she struggles through the rainforest on her own before stumbling onto a small group: gorgeous Harper, motherly Caroline, little Dink, and twins Levi and Ransom. Although Tella is determined to win the cure for Cody, she is easily distracted by Guy's rippling muscles. His pattern of saving her from various demises—just in the nick of time—undermines the author's efforts to convince readers that Tella is a strong and independent protagonist. Characters are two-dimensional, and some, especially Titus and his rogue Triggers, are downright cartoonish. In this trilogy opener, the backstory for the Brimstone Bleed's origins stretches credulity. Perhaps the sequels will provide a more solid foundation and a less clichéd story arc, but if the first installment is any indication, take a pass on this series.—Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
Tella's family has moved to fresh-aired Montana in a last-ditch attempt to save Tella's brother, who suffers from a mysterious disease. When Tella receives an invitation to become a Contender and compete for a Cure, she hopes that this no-holds-barred contest can succeed where dozens of doctors have failed. Clearly indebted to The Hunger Games but lacking its moral complexity and urgency, this sci-fi novel falls flat.

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