Monday, January 11, 2021

MMGM- Playing with Fire

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

VERY inexact statistics for my 2020 reader, broken down by type of book:

23 Adult books
75 Young Adult books
70 Graphic novels (or nonfiction or early readers)
10 Picture books
676 Middle Grade books

This was more adult books than I thought, and fewer picture books. There was a gray area with early readers and nonfiction that were short but sort of middle grade, and I figured that since my average number of pages read was 234, and that's about what most middle grade books run, that it seemed... fair? I'm just not that interested in statistics, but at the year's end, people really seem to groove on them!

I should really keep track of for how many I actually write reviews. 

Henry, April. Playing with Fire
January 19th 2021 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
E ARC provided by Edelweiss

Natalia hasn't been hiking, even though she lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her friend and coworker at The Dairy Barn, Wyatt, means to remedy that, and soon they are off on a populated but rugged wilderness trail. Since Natalia has a bit of a crush on Wyatt and isn't quite sure how he feels, she wants to impress him, even though she is leery of the endeavor. When they are almost done for the day, they find their way back to the car blocked by a quickly moving fire. They turn back, and try to warn others on the path. Eventually, a small group forms, and Wyatt (who is an Eagle scout) serves as the leader, instructing everyone to stick together and using his skills and resources to form the best plan for the group. There are a wide range of ages and experiences represented: elementary school aged Zion and his grandfather Darryl; older Susan, who is experiencing memory issues; shady jerk Jason; baby Trask and his parents Lisa and Ryan; young couple Beatriz and Marco, with his dog, Blue; and Navy bound AJ. The group suffers just about every medical emergency possible on the trek to get away from the fire and back to civilization, including (but not limited to!) burns, bee sting, asthma attack, panic attack, BEAR attack, and various scratches and damaged limbs. Through it all, Wyatt is a calm and purposeful leader, and Natalia uses her First Aid training admirably. She is also admirable in her ability to keep going despite a crippling secret from her past; her baby brother had perished in a house fire that also injured her and left her with PTSD. She's been in therapy, and uses the techniques she's learned there to help the others, and thoughtfully diagnoses and treats the various complaints with her training. When the group realizes that one of them is responsible for the fire, will they be further endangered by the criminal? 
Strengths: Where to start? First of all, the construction of this book is textbook for a successful #MGLit title. Action from the very start, 240 pages, teen characters, a hint of romance, kids saving the day, and plenty of excitement. Natalia's backstory gives this another level of interest for older readers. Her first aid training, begun to give her a sense of control, is used in the most fascinating manner, and watching her use her coping strategies with others was fantastic. I'm still trying to figure out why her on-trail diagnoses were so riveting! I loved how Wyatt took control and used his own knowledge, keeping the peace when people got tense. The storyline with the fire being set because of a crime was in the back of my mind while the group was suffering nonstop emergencies. This was an intense, heart pounding read, and the epilogue was one of the few that I wanted: it was good to know that the group (which was based on a real life group) survived and flourished. 
Weaknesses: Readers who want a book more like Henry's The Girl I Used to Be, with a criminal undertone and psychological terror might be a tiny bit disappointed in this. I wasn't! I have to admit that I did put it down from time to time because it was SO intense. 
What I really think: Two copies? Three? With the recent losses (of all the most circulated books, of course!) due to the pandemic, I'm looking more at buying multiples of books I loved and not buying books I felt "meh" about. 
Ms. Yingling


  1. Wow—between the survival aspect, the mystery-criminal aspect, and the PTSD aspect, this sounds like an immensely exciting and nerve-wracking read! I appreciate your point about buying more books you really love and less you only sort-of-like—I often feel as a blogger like I am recommending too many OK books and not making it clear which ones are the absolute best! Thanks for the great review!

  2. Those are outstanding statistics, Karen! I'm trying to do a better job of tagging/shelving my reads so that I can track my reading. And Playing With Fire sounds like a wonderful recipe for success among the MG crowd. I'm making a note of this one! Thank you.

  3. This sounds like thrilling survival story. I like the skills that both Natalia and Wyatt have developed over the years -- especially Natalia's PTSD. She certainly is confronting it head on in this story, but manages it by helping others who are panicking. Thanks for sharing!

  4. This does sound like an interesting book.

    That's a lot of MG books read! I'm happy when I reach my 100 book goal for the year :)

  5. Wow! What a book! Of course I ran right over to add it to my goodreads list. Thanks so much for this.
    I might have to ask my local library to bring it in.

  6. Quite the impressive set of reading numbers you presented. Congrats on another great year. You are the rock star of reviewers!

  7. This sounds so good. I love survival stories, especially if they're set in Oregon! I've got to meet April a few times at Oregon writing events. She's a lovely person.

  8. I love, Love, LOVE survivor stories. I will have to get my hands on a copy of this. Thanks so much for your exciting review.

  9. I agree with Greg that you are the rock star of reviewers but I would go even further and say you are the rock star legend of reviewers. You are the Paul McCartney, the Bruce Springsteen, the Pete Townsend of kidlit bloggers!

    1. Wow. That's a huge compliment! I'll take it, this morning! Thanks.

  10. Amazing numbers, and this sounds like a great book!