Free Fall

Joyce Sweeney, Author Delacorte Press $15.95 (229p) ISBN 978-0-385-32211-9
Four high school boys are lost for 24 hours in an underground cave in this suspenseful adventure story. Seventeen-year-old Neil and his friend Randy grudgingly allow Neil's younger brother, David, and his friend Terry to join them on a road trip into Florida's Ocala National Forest for an afternoon of spelunking. None of the boys has told his parents, much less asked for permission, and with only vague directions, few exploring skills and fewer supplies, it's only a matter of time before crisis strikes. How the boys ration food, plan escape routes, cope with injuries, snakes and other unfriendly wildlife all make for gripping reading, and the story could stand on its own as a tale of survival. But Sweeney (Shadow) goes beyond the action genre, bringing the characters' outside lives into the cave to add further depth to the proceedings. The looming possibility that they may perish enables the boys to examine and come to terms with some of their fears and hopes and, in the case of Neil and David, to iron out a painful, two-year-long misunderstanding. The four personalities are distinct and expertly drawn, the roles they take on in the cave natural extensions of their histories. Lean and skillfully wrought, this novel hooks the reader and doesn't let go. Ages 12-up. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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