Thursday, August 4, 2011

Review: Trapped

Michael Northrop
Scholastic Press
When Scotty stays after to help his buddies work on a shop class project, the three end up snowed in, trapped in the high school by a blizzard that just won't let up. Along with four other students, Scotty and his friends start to wait out the storm, thinking there's no way it can last until morning. But then it does. It lasts days and what starts as an adventure in living off of cold cafeteria food and sleeping on the hard floor of a classroom turns into a fight for survival and rescue.

Full Disclosure: the idea of being snowed in has always seemed terribly romantic to me. We can blame my love of winter or we can blame that one Baby-Sitters Club book, but either way part of the reason I wanted to read this book was just because it sounded cool, in a weird sort of way. (Obviously I wouldn't want to be fighting for survival, but a milder version perhaps.) Northrop's writing here is best described as dry. Scotty, as narrator, gives a play-by-play of all that happens and  the plot plays out in a very straight-forward manner. The book itself is a slow build that sometimes seems to be dragging unnecessarily on, but the reality of the predicament was strong enough to keep me reading. Because even if the characters don't always know how bad it is, the reader always does.

For a book that mostly consisted of seven teenagers trapped inside a high school, there was surprisingly little character development. While I found that odd, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing because the story here really is all about the situation and not the characters at all. Anyone could have been trapped in that school and the situation would have been the same. Scotty's voice is dry enough and sometimes wry enough to be entertaining, however there were parts of his personality and the characters' reactions as a whole that felt unrealistic. At one point Scotty is concerned about getting in trouble for breaking into the cafeteria to find food and I found myself thinking, really? That's your big concern? And while some of what the characters did as the storm wore on seemed pretty smart, I was surprised they didn't do more in the first couple of days. Though the radio they've found is running out of batteries and the school is dark once the lights cut out, nobody thinks of searching the classrooms and office for batteries and flashlights. These are things you could find in a school and the fact that they didn't even think of it felt very unrealistic. That said, despite the books faults it was a book I found entertaining and original. The story and set-up are strong, with plenty of realistic interactions and actions from the characters (compulsively checking their cells for service, for example) and a premise strong enough to carry through. The friendship Scotty shares with his two friends (Pete and Jason) was not explored in-depth, but was definitely deep enough to feel strong and real. There's the sense that these are characters who trust one another and are important to one another.

This sense that the other characters (at first Jason and Pete, but later all of them) are important to Scotty is one of the reasons I found myself so disappointed with the ending. I was expecting another chapter or an epilogue, but instead got a cliffhanger ending that leaves the reader to speculate on what happened next. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be obvious or not, but the non-ending was easily the biggest disappointment of the book. I liked the story and definitely enjoyed reading it, but the ending was completely unsatisfying.


  1. I liked this one too. I need to push it to my students more because that's probably their nightmare: being trapped at school!