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"Susan Shaw peels the layers away until nothing is left but the seed — and it is both terrible and wonderful." — Jerry Spinelli, author of the Newbery Medal-winning Maniac Magee
Columns of fire, jets of fire, spirals of fire! Hot and orange and sparking all around me.
“Come on, Joey,” Preston said with Maureen’s scared voice. “Come on.” He gave me a last backward glance through the veils of smoke. He walked a few more steps, and then I couldn’t see him anymore.
“Preston!” I tried to go after him, but something had me by the belt. “Preston!”
I couldn’t move forward, I couldn’t move backward, and Preston—I had to save Preston.
A door. I saw a door. I banged on it with my fists, but it wouldn’t open. “Mom!” I shouted, but she didn’t answer. “Mom! Mo-o-om!”
Orange. Orange all around. Orange and black and soot, and where was Preston? Where was Preston, and where was Pete? Where was Pete and where was Cheryl and where was Jamaal and Donnie and and and—
Mr. Bednarik showed up, a black shadow against the orange. He had a crowbar, and we were going to get in after all. Everything would be fine.
But the crowbar melted when it touched the door. The door melted too, and flowed around my feet like hot lava. All I could see behind where it had been was orange and black and black and orange, all roaring and jumping and snapping sparks.
Mr. Bednarik pulled me away, but I fought him. Why wouldn’t he let me go? I knew we could still save them. I knew we could put on our fireproof suits and still save them. The fireproof suits—they were just over there, just out of sight, but I couldn’t get at them with Mr. Bednarik pulling on me like that. Shaking me.
“Wake up, Joey.” Shaking me. “Wake up.” Shaking—
I opened my eyes. Dad was bent over me, his hair all spiky from his pillow, and I was sweating on the kitchen floor. Preston’s green eyes looked down at me from a windowsill.
Dad stopped shaking me, and I sat up. “You were having a bad dream,” he said. “You were shouting.”
“I couldn’t open the door,” I mumbled. “I tried.”
“I know, Joey. Get up. Get up and get a drink of water. Get rid of the dream.”
As if I could.
But I got a drink of water, and then Dad and I went outside to stand together in the backyard. It was probably quiet out there, but I still felt the rage of the fire.
“There’s the Big Dipper.” Dad’s voice cut through the flames, and they got farther away, became less bright. “See it?” He slapped at a mosquito.
I looked for it. “No, but I believe you.”
He put his arm around my shoulders so our temples almost met and our eyes were on the same level. The flames moved off some more, and I felt the cool of the night. Dad pointed with his free hand.
“See it?” He slapped at another mosquito.
While I stared, the random stars came together, and I saw it. The Big Dipper. Right. There. Anyone could see it.
After a few more minutes of constellation searching, the bugs were really getting to Dad. He swatted and swatted.
“Okay now?” he asked. Swat! Swat! We climbed the steps to the porch. Swat! “Do you think you can sleep?”
“I’ll be fine,” I said. “It was just a dream.”
We went back inside, and I returned to the sleeping bag by the kitchen’s sliding glass door. Preston was still stretched out on the windowsill, his eyes reflecting the light Dad hadn’t turned off in the dining room yet.
“Meowrr?” he asked.
“All okay, Preston,” I answered. I punched up my pillow before lying down on it. “All okay.” Lying down on it and feeling that hole I lived in. The gray hole that never went away. Not all okay.
© 2009 Susan Shaw
Posted November 29, 2009
They say survivors of tragic accidents suffer not only the personal trauma of the tragedy, but also feelings of guilt as the "lucky" ones who survived the event. What if that guilt is compounded by the fact that the survivors are also being accused of causing the deadly event?
Joey has already survived one fire - the one that killed his mother barely a year ago. Now he and his friend, Maureen, have survived a fire at their high school that claimed the lives of everyone else in their history class, including the teacher, Mr. Austen.
Since the two fourteen year olds were the only students in the classroom to survive, people in the community have decided to accuse them of starting the fire in the first place. The reasoning behind the accusation? How else would they have known that the fire alarm was not just a test.
That day the new fire alarm system was being tested. It started clanging before classes were even in session. Throughout the day, the fire alarm would sound, and the principal would announce over the PA that it was just a test. Joey became more and more unnerved each time the alarm went off, until finally, in history class, he snapped.
Even though Mr. Austen threatened him with detention, Joey stood up and announced he was leaving the building. Everyone knew about his mother's tragic death, but only Maureen knew Joey well enough to recognize his panic. As they both left the classroom and the building, they accepted the fact that they might be punished for their disobedience.
However, when they arrived outside to find the building was indeed on fire, their world changed forever.
ONE OF THE SURVIVORS by Susan Shaw is the story of Joey's life after the fire and his struggle to cope with the angry accusations of some in his community and to deal with his own private grief and guilt. Shaw uses a mix of Joey's personal journal entries and narrative accounts of the events surrounding the time leading up to and including the fire.
Readers will witness the emotional turmoil Joey experiences as he relives his mother's death and the senseless deaths of his fellow classmates. Shaw's control of the events and the way she gradually reveals the facts create a riveting read.
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Posted September 24, 2012
I would give One of the Survivors a rating of 4 stars out of 5 because it was good, mysterious, and entertaining but, at some parts it was confusing. However the book did have a fantastic plot and great story line though.
The book is about a fire that burnt down Village Park High School, 14 year old Joey Campbell's school. 24 dead and 2 survivors. Now Joey has to cope with all the students' parents as well as any student who didn't get affected by the fire as they all blame Joey and his neighbor for starting the fire. Joey and his neighbor Maureen were the only two who got out of their freshman history class. It was on the day they were testing the fire alarm and Joey got so frustrated he had to go because, he already lost his mom to a house fire earlier. Now it's up to Joey to clear his name and get back to living a normal teenage life.
I would recommend this book to teenagers who like mystery books, because they have to try and found out what actually happened that the fire started, it deals with actual teenage students who have to live with what they survived. also, i would give this to teenagers because throughout the entire book you're reading a teenagers journal of what happened and how it affected him and everybody else. This book was very good!
Posted March 30, 2012
One of the Survivors
By: Susan Shaw
10-16 How would you like to have people standing in your yard every day chanting, “Murderer! Murderer!” while throwing trash just because you and your friend knew to escape on that fateful day? 14-year-old Joey and his best friend Maureen are trying their hardest to cope with the loss of their whole history class while having people throwing trash into their yards.
I would give this book a 4.9 out of five stars. It was a great read with the chapters written in daily journal entries. It was very descriptive with the physical traits of the characters like Donnie’s cow-lick and Maureen’s blond hair with a tiny bit of black still in it. It was very sad at moments such as when Joey is telling about the fires that killed his mom and whole history class and how he couldn’t save them. I would recommend this book to a friend because it is written in a very unique style and is not the everyday book that you pick up in a library and put back down because it looks sad or not thrilling enough. When I first saw it in the library I knew that I just HAD to read it.
The beginning is very suspenseful because you don’t know if it’s the fire that the back cover talks about or another one. Every time I stopped reading I was left wanting to read more. I just couldn’t get enough of the book, I read it outside, in bed before falling asleep, just about anywhere I wanted to be reading it.
Posted February 26, 2012