I think it’s the Texan Effect, y’know everything’s bigger and better syndrome. I got so used to reading about extremely dysfunctional dystopian societies and horrifically cataclysmic natural disasters in apocalyptic fiction, that I almost forgot that the event or trigger doesn’t have to be exotic to make for a good story. It took reading Trapped by Michael Northrop to remind me that the flashy disasters aren’t what’s important to this genre, but how people react to events, in ways both expected and unexpected.
The premise in Trapped is very simple, a small group of high school students have stayed after school for a myriad of reasons and are trapped together by the snowstorm of the century. Having left the Chicago area after high school for milder climes, this book brought to life again the very real hazards such storms can cause. We forget in this time of technological sophistication that even something like a severe storm can bring havoc.
The narrator, Scotty, is a basketball player and all round B high school kid. Trapped in the school with his two closest friends when they stay after school has been dismissed for the storm to work on a go kart project, he tells the story in a very believable way. Scotty, Jason and Pete are not the only kids in the school, there’s Les the juvenile delinquent, Elijah, the strange and nerdy kid and Krista the popular pretty girl and her friend Julie. The only adult, Mr. Gossell the teacher, quickly exits the story leaving the kids to quickly figure out that the storm is a record breaker and they are on their own.
It’s a little like Breakfast Club with its cliques forced together by circumstances, although in this case the circumstances are much more serious than detention. As the power and heat fails, the water pipes freeze and sickness it’s the group, the teens must find a way to not only get along, but to support each other.
While the action is less than in other books of this type, the slower pace was fine with me. I enjoyed the narration which felt very natural and even chuckled at the raging hormones of the boys in spite of the less than ideal conditions. The story was believable in every way and didn’t rely on slick plot devices or world building to achieve a sense of interest. My biggest criticism is the ending, which just fell flat. Again, I will take some responsibility that I have gotten used to this genre usually consisting of book series. It would actually be fine if there wasn’t a sequel to this book, but then the ending should feel less unfinished. I actually had to go to the author’s website to find out if there was meant to be a sequel. While Michael Northrop implied that it hadn’t been written with the intention to have a sequel, he would not be adverse to writing one if the demand was there. There seemed to be may comments by readers demanding a sequel for ‘answers’, but the way the story ended it wasn’t any mystery what happened to the teens, the only unknown for me was how their parents, classmates and townspeople had fared. The only thing that could make a potential sequel interesting would be to use it to retell the story from the perspective of one of the other teens who could provide a totally different take on the relationships that form and maybe get the book to a real ending.