In a book that moves like one of the roller coasters it describes, a teenage boy must face a series of tests that represent his deepest fears in order to save his brother. Narrator Blake, a thoughtful 16-year-old student about to leave home for an early college career, follows his daredevil brother, Quinn, into a haunted amusement park. Once inside, he learns the park's sinister secret: he must finish seven rides by sunrise, or become trapped in the park forever. Ultimately, Blake is forced to confront the memory of a horrible bus accident from his early childhood, and the resulting fears and regrets that have stayed with him. Blake and Quinn are skillfully cast opposites: the former an orderly-minded, intellectual student who avoids risk, the latter an earring-studded adrenaline junkie who would rather flirt with death than be bored. Amusement parks, where chaos and order work hand in hand, make an ideal setting for coming-of-age stories (Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, to which this book bears more than slight resemblance, being the best example). Despite the escalating surrealism of the rides, Shusterman keeps the narrative in Blake's matter-of-fact voice, making the tale oddly believable. But in the colorful blur of the park's tests and challenges, there is little time for deep character development, and Blake and Quinn evolve little beyond caricature. Ages 10-up. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A roller coaster ride of a book.
A surreal, scary fantasy, packed with suspenseful psychological drama. Readers will savor the page-turning thrills in this wonderfully eerie story.
An unusual quest adventure.
Sixteen-year-old Blake is overly cautious and responsible, still gripped by memories of a harrowing bus accident he suffered as a young child, of which he was the sole survivor. His thirteen-year-old brother, Quinn, is overly wild and self-destructive, resisting their single mom's engagement to yet another loser boyfriend. The relationship between the two is tested and ultimately deepened when they enter the bizarre world of a phantom carnival, instructed by the alluring but demonic Cassandra that they must undergo seven harrowing rides before dawn—or remain captives of the carnival forever. The dark world of the carnival is reminiscent of Pleasure Island in Disney's Pinocchio, as hordes of jaded, thrill-seeking youths, such as Quinn, proceed blithely on to their doom. The rides themselves drag on for too many pages, with too many predictable cliff-hanging moments and narrow escapes, during which the reader may find his thoughts wandering: "Blake has to make it through this one; we're only up to page 100!" But Shusterman has a good grasp of teen psychology and orchestrates a moving reconciliation between Blake and Quinn, as Blake finally faces the truth of what really happened in his childhood bus tragedy and why he should no longer let it haunt him. Readers who want a horrific, disturbing (if somewhat overly drawn out) rollercoaster ride will welcome this one. 2003, Simon & Schuster,
Sixteen-year-old Blake is the "responsible" friend-the safe driver, the one who watches out for his brother, the one who offers to wait in line for the long carnival rides while his friends go on the rides he would just as soon miss. There is something else about Blake, however, that gains him an invitation to a roving carnival led by the strangely alluring Cassandra. When Blake's younger brother disappears inside, Blake enters with his friends-offering up his soul for admission. All they must do is survive seven rides before dawn, but these rides are not ordinary, of course. Each supernatural ride is specially designed for its rider, built on that person's deepest fears. As the night wears on, it appears that Blake is a survivor and that he might be the one to battle Cassandra to the end of her game. Shusterman, author of Downsiders (Simon & Schuster, 1999/VOYA August 1999), again pulls together a riveting thriller with interesting characters. Through horror and fantasy, he imparts a sense of how someone under pressure can find courage, a sense of what's "right," and live with decisions made. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2003, Simon & Schuster, 208p,
In this not-very-thrilling magical thriller, 16-year-old Blake comes to terms with old fears. Blake's younger brother Quinn is a reckless pest. Blake, on the other hand, is careful and studious: a Volvo driver who sorts his pencils. When a mysterious woman slips Blake an invitation to a theme-park rave, Blake chooses not to go-until Quinn swipes the invitation, and slips into a coma. Blake and two friends rush to the rave to save Quinn from whatever magical force has befallen him. If Blake defeats seven of the enchanted rides before dawn, he rescues Quinn; if he fails, they'll be lost forever. Blake conquers some challenges through cleverness, some through personal epiphanies, and others through dumb luck. Each success for Blake brings all of the main characters closer to self-knowledge. Since only Blake has any depth of character, it's not much of a trip. (Fiction. 10-15)
KLIATT A roller coaster ride of a book.
Booklist A surreal, scary fantasy, packed with suspenseful psychological drama. Readers will savor the page-turning thrills in this wonderfully eerie story.
School Library Journal An unusual quest adventure.