Actress/screenwriter Laybourne’s debut ably turns what could have been yet another postapocalyptic YA novel into a tense, claustrophobic, and fast-paced thriller. In the not-too-distant future, a sudden hailstorm—just one small part of a massive environmental cataclysm—forces 14 Colorado students on their way to school to take refuge in a superstore. Cut off from the previously ubiquitous Network (with only one old TV as an occasional information source), they must cope with the standard personality conflicts and also a biochemical weapon leak that causes behavioral shifts in some of the kids. Bookish Dean narrates, observing his own jealousies and concerns, as well as the way the popular kids—like football players Jake and Brayden, and diving champ Astrid—are forced to question their place in the new social order. Although violence (including a sexual assault) is pervasive, it’s rarely graphic and never gratuitous. Laybourne successfully develops a large cast of characters of assorted ages, and if the ending seems designed to tease a sequel, the story still stands well on its own. Ages 13–up. Agent: Susanna Einstein, Einstein Thompson Agency. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2012 Release date: 06/05/2012 Genre: Children's
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