When Dani’s father invites her to the jungles of South America with the world’s hottest teen actor, it’s a no-brainer. She hasn’t seen her dad in years, and this will be her chance to impress him. Dani’s parent’s divorced years ago, and she can’t help but feel like it was somewhat her fault. After an accident that left her with one real eye and one fake one, it was her mom who stayed with her in the hospital, who nursed her when she was sick, and woke up with her nightmares. Her dad was off fulfilling his life long dream of adventure and becoming a star. His show is a hit with celebrities willing to risk their life eating questionable food, swatting at dangerous insects, and trading in their cushy hotel beds for the ground. If you are picturing Bear Grylls, you’ve got Dani’s dad.
At first glance, this could easily be described as a survival story- and it absolutely is. There’s a plane crash, death, perilous moments, dangerous animals and insects, mudslides, food and water rations, and deadly consequences. But this is the story of a daughter trying to impress her father. Anyone with two eyes can figure out that her dad has other plans - the camera is still rolling despite their situation, he’s manipulating it to look like the only reason she came was to meet Gus Price, he can’t get her birthday right, and she’s the only one being yelled at for trying to help. And she is helping. She’s watched all of her dad’s shows, to the point she has the episode numbers memorized and has picked up his survival tips for years. Add that to her mother’s job as a nurse and the piles of medical journals she’s been reading for years, Dani’s really the best person in this crisis. But the more she tries to help, the angrier he gets. As their situation gets direr by the minute, Dani has to make some tough decisions. Can she forgive her father for the way he’s been treating her, or more importantly, does she want to?
I love stories that force the main character to become a better version of themself. Especially if they don’t know what they are capable of. Dani certainly rises to the occasion despite the challenges she faces with her father and the situation they are all in now. Survival wins out over pleasing her father, but it’s messy, emotional, and cathartic. Now she just needs to live with her decisions. This is equal parts adventure, romance, and family with a gritty main character that students will love to read about. The audio, available on Hoopla and narrated by veteran Caitlin Davies, is worth the listen.