Middle school whizz kid Sam, and history buff Martina, win a contest for a trip across the United States of America. Sam’s mother is reluctant to let her son go on this trip as she knows the trouble he can get into if he is not challenged and gets bored. Luckily, she will never know the extent of Sam’s involvement in adventures and the dangers he faces, in truly life and death situations.
Theo is also on this trip. He has a man’s physique, and joins the other two contestants at the airfield. The mission the teenagers are on is still unclear, but they board a small plane and begin their journey. A hostess comes by and offers the guests some water. Martina has her own bottle and Sam isn’t thirsty, but everyone else has a drink. A short time later Theo collapses on the seat behind Sam. Then the copilot opens the door of the cockpit and collapses. Sam and Martina realise they are the only ones left to fly and land the plane. What a dynamic beginning to their contest trip!
Once the plane is safely landed the three contestants are picked up in a taxi and taken to a ranch. The next day they are taken to Death Valley and by this time it becomes clear that the three must work together to solve the dilemmas, and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles which face them. They will need all their intelligences combined, and Martina’s knowledge of American History, to uncover a plot hatched by the first American presidents.
This is a fascinating and relevant way to learn about American History. So many facts that Martina has learned are shared and used to unlock even more secrets. There is no doubt that someone wants the trio dead, but they want the puzzles solved first before the actual executions.
The story moves at a fast pace, and as the novel is set in the desert, and underground, we get a feeling for the remoteness and isolation of this place. The interaction between characters keeps the story lively. Sam is a little intolerant of others, but begins to learn how important it is to work in a team, and also to respect that other people can contribute in areas where he has little knowledge. The dialogue between Sam and Martina in particular is humorous, and show his casual disrespect for others until he needs their help.
The puzzles that need solving use the ingenuity of all the teens. They are solved logically and believably. The end result of their deductive reasoning is startling and mysterious, and lends itself beautifully to a series involving these characters we have grown to admire. The history that is explained and discussed would be of great interest to American children.
One could only hope that a series of books written in our country, Australia, could be as exciting, and expose facts about early history in this readable way.
|Author||Sarah L. Thomson|
|Publisher||BLM Children's USA|