Playing with Fire
by April Henry
Published by: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: January 19th 2021
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
When a fire cuts off a popular trail in the Oregon forest, a small group trapped by the flames must find another way out―or die―in Playing with Fire, an unrelenting teen-vs-nature YA thriller by New York Times bestselling author April Henry.
Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her co-worker Wyatt has begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees.
But when a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have to become allies if they’re going to survive. Hiking in the dark, they must reach the only way out―a foot bridge over a deep canyon―before the fire catches them.
A seventeen year old girl with a traumatic past and minimum first aid training, an eighteen year old Eagle Scout and ten other unfortunate hikers trapped in a forest ravaged by a roaring wildfire… April Henry’s latest YA thriller took me on a roller coaster of emotions and kept me reading until the small hours.
First things first…Natalia, a survivor of a domestic accident that resulted in a fire that destroyed her home and killed her little brother, goes on a first date/ hike with her co-worker Wyatt. Both of them are well-prepared and even have basic first aid kits. Of course, they do not expect that careless actions of a few criminals are going to set the forest where they are hiking on fire. There are other people on the same trail, although you wouldn’t even call them a group at the beginning of this incredible adventure. You have to admire April Henry’s skill at creating such a diverse group of characters with a huge range of ages, dispositions and medical conditions. They all have one goal: escape the fire and get to safety as soon as possible. They all have to face and overcome pain and fear and keep moving. They also have to pull together and share their meager supplies, support each other and work together.
Playing with Fire is an intense story. Told in short chapters with catchy titles, it is full of twists and nail-biting, heart-stopping moments. Everything that could go wrong for Natalia, Wyatt and their companions goes wrong. How likely is it that a small group will experience all these misfortunes and medical emergencies within twenty four hours? I’d say statistically impossible, but, boy, does it make for an exciting read!
I learnt a lot about survival techniques and the importance of being prepared when you go on a trip in nature. Fire safety, the mnemonics for checking life signs, a technique for reducing anxiety by focusing on what your senses perceive in the real world- this book isn’t just entertaining, it also has a great educational value.
I would definitely recommend this exciting YA thriller, inspired by the true events of the Eagle Creek Fire. If you like adventure stories with a touch of mystery and a tiny bit of romance, don’t miss this book.
Thank you to NetGalley, Henry Holt & Company and Xpresso Book Tours for the advanced review copy. All opinions are my own and were not influenced in any way.
April Henry is the New York Times–bestselling author of many acclaimed mysteries for adults and young adults, including the YA novels The Girl in the White Van; Girl, Stolen; The Night She Disappeared; The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die; The Girl I Used to Be, which was nominated for an Edgar Award and won the Anthony Award for Best YA Mystery; Count All Her Bones; The Lonely Dead; Run, Hide, Fight Back; and The Body in the Woods and Blood Will Tell, the first two books in the Point Last Seen series. She lives in Oregon.
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