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Trapped: Michael Northrop

Book: Trapped
Author: Michael Northrop (@mdnorthrop)
Pages: 240
Age Range: 12 and up

Michael Northrop's Trapped is a book that you'll want to read while snuggled under a warm blanket. Doesn't matter how warm it is where you live - Trapped will make you feel the cold.

Trapped is a story about seven high school students trapped in their remote rural high school by the blizzard to end all blizzards. No on knows that they are there (as far as they can tell), and no one could get to them anyway. It starts out a bit of a lark, but when the power goes out and all of the first floor windows are buried in snow, things aren't quite so fun. Within a few days, when there's no more heat, and the roof starts to make ominous noises, things get really scary.

Trapped is a quick, suspenseful read, an obvious choice as an ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (now even more appealing in a slim, take-anywhere paperback edition). Like books such as Life As We Knew It, Trapped makes you appreciate basic things like heat and working plumbing. And cell phones, the absence of which really bothers the kids. 

Scotty's voice is quite strong. It's a bit surprising, almost, that Michael Northrop isn't still a fifteen year old boy. Because he sure can channel one. As an adult, female reader, there was a bit more attention to zits and boy banter than I was exactly interested in, but I think that Trapped must work very well with male teen readers. Like this:

"I'd made sure I was walking on Krista's right, but I could see now that it wouldn't matter much. Weak light is a lit's best friend. 

The snow reached the top of the windows now. It felt like being buried. The windows looked out on to nothing, as if some idea had installed waist-level windows in a basement. The light from the emergency lights faded in and out as we moved past one and toward another. It was gold now, piss-colored." (Page 101-102)

I also thought that Northrop did a nice job of working in a tiny bit of knowledge here and there, without slowing the pace of the book, or feeling like he was out to teach readers anything. There are explanations of Occam's Razor, phantom limb syndrome, how storms work (where they get their energy), and various practical matters related to survival. 

In general, Northrop has a gift for throwing in little insightful observations that resonate. Despite Trapped being a fairly short book, I flagged quite a few passages. Like these:

"It wasn't the creaky tools that were worrying Holloway, though. It was the snow. That was the other thing he really valued: Like a lot of New Englanders who've reached a certain age and haven't had the common sense to leave, he really had a thing for winter, like it was some beautiful beast that had to be respected." (Page 22)

"It wasn't really cold enough to need that many layers yet. She wasn't bundled up against the cold. She was bundled up against the possibility of cold." (Page 65)

There's a hint of The Breakfast Club in the story's setup, with kids from different social groups forced together by the blizzard. But Northrop's treatment, while not quite so smart-alecky, is far more believable. Certainly the kids, particularly Scotty and his two best friends, are more than stereotypes. 

I was a bit irritated by the abrupt ending of the book. I would have liked an epilogue or something. But there is no question that Northrop keeps the story moving forward right up to the last page. 

Trapped is a must-purchase title for high school libraries, and a recommended read for anyone looking for a tense survival story. Just make sure you have a blanket handy, and an uninterrupted chunk of time to finish the book. 

Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: December 1, 2012 (this edition)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).