CM . . .
. Volume XXII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2016
Jungle Land. (The Seven Prequels).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2016.
153 pp., pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1149-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1150-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1151-5 (epub).
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Rob Bittner.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
There was another loud explosion. In my mind I pictured the perimeter wall around the compound being shattered, and I realized why we needed a safe room. Those bullets weren’t just going to be outside the compound—that’s why we were looking for a safe place. But my mind was spinning. How could one room be that much safer than another, and how come she couldn’t find the room we were looking for?
Jungle Land is a prequel to Eric Walters’ two previous novels in the “Seven” series, Between Heaven and Earth and Sleeper. Walters continues to write with a sense of urgency, but he also makes this new text more accessible for a younger audience, allowing individuals who are new to the series to, in a sense, grow up with the characters. Walters’ novels each focus on JD, the oldest grandchild and his connection to his grandfather. In this prequel, DJ is 13-years-old, and he is on his way with his grandfather to Central America to meet a very wealthy man who has an estate in the middle of the jungle. Upon landing, JD discovers that their host, Juan, has invited his granddaughter, Alejandra, to keep JD company. The two clash, however, at least until they find themselves under attack from unknown assailants.
In typical fashion, Walters writes a narrative that moves quickly and keeps attention from an action-based perspective, but which leaves at least something to be desired in terms of characterization. I realize that Jungle Land is a prequel, and individuals are seemingly expected to know JD to a greater extent based on the earlier books in each series; however, if one were to read the novels about JD in order of the age of the protagonist, this installment would leave readers wanting where character development is concerned. Having reviewed the other two JD related books, I was able to better understand parts of the plot, but I was also left feeling that Walters might have benefitted from including more of JD’s backstory here for those reading according to the timeline of the character rather than publication history.
The overall plot is intriguing, and I was very much engrossed in the adventures of JD and Alejandra as they run through the jungle in an attempt to escape from an unknown assailant. Walters still manages to captivate through his writing, but this particular installment is lacking in some ways. The ending is of particular concern. I will not spoil the novel through particulars, but the ending feels too neat and almost patronizing. There is so much opportunity for the building up of intrigue and mystery early in the book, and indeed Walters manages to do so, but then ultimately fails to follow through. Though the characters go through many trials throughout the course of the text, in the end these trials are all unnecessary, and I felt cheated by the resolution.
In the end, Jungle Land is a solid novel with a lot to enjoy, at least until the ending, and, although the characterization is less impressive than the other books within the original “Seven” series and “The Seven Sequels” series, Jungle Land is a decent introduction to the world of the various other books within this inventive fictional situation.
Rob Bittner, a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, is currently a doctoral candidate in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University.
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