CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 40. . . .June 15, 2018
The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue.
Adrienne Kress. Illustrated by Matthew C. Rockefeller.
New York, NY: Delacorte (Distributed in Canada by Random House Canada), 2018.
371 pp., hardcover, $22.99.
Adventure and adventurers-Fiction.
Voyages and travels-Fiction.
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.
Review by Rob Bittner.
There is a difference between fact and opinion. It’s hard to tell sometimes because opinions like to dress up as facts, and their costumes have gotten quite impressive lately. There is a way, however, to easily tell the difference between them. You have to weigh them. Because, you see, facts have more substance. So they’re heavier. This is how one can know for a fact, for example, that being kidnapped for your brain is scary. Because when this fact is placed on the scale, man does it ever tip the balance!
What do a giant shark named Steve, a K-Pop boy band called The Lost Boys, and a mysteriously hidden volcano have in common? Not a lot, as it turns out, but they are all parts of this incredibly fun and frenetic sequel to The Explorers: The Door in the Alley. Sebastian has been kidnapped and is on the run, trying to find a possible escape, only to find himself being rescued by a K-Pop group after a frantic chase sequence through an airport. At the same time, Evie (along with Catherine, one of the Filipendulous Five) ends up in Australia, trying to find her way to the hidden pathway which leads up to the summit of the Vertiginous Volcano. Although they are each relatively stuck within their own adventurous avenues, Sebastian’s and Evie’s paths (Spoiler Alert) do eventually cross in a delightfully unexpected way.
Kress’s narrative is peppered with humorous interjections in the form of footnotes—“Unless, of course, you’re part of the ‘We want to hurt each other for fun’ club, which, from my understanding, is currently down to one member”—and witty jokes within the main parts of the narrative. Evie and Catherine have a fabulous repartee, beginning in the first book and continuing into this sequel. I feel that of the two subplots, theirs is stronger when it comes to the banter and character development for Evie. But at the same time, elements of the shark story feel a bit unrealistic (a shark in the bed of a truck?) That being said, I love their relationship, and I think they bring a very strong element to the novel as a whole.
Sebastian’s story, though slightly (in my mind) lacking in comparison to Evie and Catherine’s, is very well constructed overall. His ordeal is portrayed with urgency and an element of terror; the incorporation of some points of the K-Pop storyline make me think of a “North American savior” in the end, even while I am in agreement with some of Sebastian’s critiques around freedom in the lives of the boy band members. I am always a bit hesitant of books that seem to portray North American ideals as necessarily global ideals. That being said, I was entertained by Sebastian’s journey to self-confidence through his development as a drummer and a stage presence.
Kress’s villains are truly villainous, and her heroes are fabulously complicated. Her work contains twists and turns, keeping readers from immediately seeing the endgame. As with The Explorers: The Door in the Alley, I was enthusiastically engaged with the story, the characters, the settings, and the nuance that Kress brought forward in The Explorers: The Reckless Rescue. Fans and future fans will be impressed with this delightful follow-up.
Rob Bittner has a PhD in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies (SFU), and is also a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He loves reading a wide range of literature but particularly stories with diverse depictions of gender and sexuality.
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