de los Santos, Marisa and Teague, David. Connect the Stars
September 22nd 2015 by HarperCollins
E ARC from Edelweiss
Eighth graders Audrey and Aaron have their quirks: Audrey can tell when people are lying, and Aaron has an Eidetic memory, which makes him helpful on his quiz bowl team, but doesn't give others much of a chance to contribute. Both children get into situations where their gifts serve them poorly, and their parents think it would be good for them to go to a survival camp in the desert. Run by the no-nonsense Jare, it involves a group of disparate children hiking across the desert and camping out, then working on tasks set them by Jare. There's the angry Daphne, the sickly Louis, Kate with her emotional issues, and others. They have to learn to work together, but before long an actual emergency occurs. One of the campers runs away, and Jare is injured. When it really counts, can the campers put aside their differences and use the skills they have as well as the skills they have learned to save themselves and their fellow campers?
Strengths: This was sort of like A View From Saturday set in a survival camp. Bunch of quirky kids who would never hang out together being forced to rely on each other. There were good descriptions of the desert and things one needs to do to survive there. Early on, there is a polemic against standardized testing, which was sort of amusing to me, and will delight many teachers. This was a much more appealing novel than Saving Lucas Biggs.
Weaknesses: The ensemble cast was rather large, so it was hard to keep all of the characters straight. Even with such a huge cast, there was not a single character I liked. High slappage factor.
What I really think: There's enough adventure that this might be successful with my students, but the characters were unrealistically quirky. Debating.