In the Red. Christopher Swiedler. 2020. [March] 288 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: By Friday afternoon, after a week of careful thought, Michael Prasad had come up with just one theory for how he might make it to Monday morning without getting grounded for the rest of his life.
Premise/plot: In the Red is a middle grade science fiction novel set on Mars. Michael, the hero, has been forbidden to try (again) for his basic certification--being certified to go out on the surface of Mars in an environmental suit. Most pass by the age of ten--he's twelve. But he's experienced panic attacks in the past on test day--that were not pretty. Michael feels certain he's a big disappointment to his dad. If he can just get over his panic attacks then he could visit his father at work on the station. So many things he could do...if only his body didn't betray him.
Lilith, Michael's best, best, best friend, is so supportive of him. For better or worse--after another failed attempt--she suggests the two of them SNEAK out and go to the surface. What could go wrong????
If nothing went wrong, In the Red would be a short story that few would find super-compelling. Instead it is action packed and filled with danger. Action packed yet still character driven. Despite the jacket copy telling readers a LOT of what to expect, I recommend reading it knowing as little as possible.
My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED this one. If you like survivor stories, science fiction, coming of age, characters with depth that are relatable, adventure, action...this one has it all. It's so well paced too. I loved the narrator, Michael. I loved his relationships with his best friend, Lilith, and with his brother. (Though we see very little of Peter.)
It is premise-driven, action-driven, and character-driven. It's hard to be all three--to excel at all three. It is easy to *try* not so easy to succeed. This is an excellent book.
"Well, whatever you do, don't give up, okay?" Peter said. "Don't let anyone convince you that you're some kind of freak."
"I am a freak," Michael mumbled.
"No," Peter said firmly. "You're not. I don't care how many panic attacks you have."
"Mom and Dad don't see it that way."
"Mom and Dad just want to protect you, because that's their job," Peter said. "But part of growing up is deciding when you don't need protection anymore."
© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews