Ben is a college student on summer break. He needs money for school, so he agrees to take Madec hunting for Bighorn sheep. Madec is a bit crazy and shoots at anything that moves - and moving includes breathing - as the sleeping Gila Monster discovers. He accidentally shoots a prospector and tries to hide it from Ben.
Madec tries to convince Ben that they don't need to tell the authorities. When Ben disagrees, Madec tries to bribe Ben with promises of money and a future job with the oil company. When Ben still refuses, Madec shoots the prospector with Ben's gun to frame Ben for murder. Amazingly, Ben still refuses to give in to Madec's demands, so Madec resorts to threats. At gunpoint Madec forces Ben to give up his clothes (except for his shorts) and all of his supplies. If Ben can survive the walk out of the desert without clothes, food, or water, Ben can turn Madec in. However, Madec will be watching his every move and hunting him down so he can't survive the walk out.
Ben is an amazing character. If I was Ben, I wouldn't have survived the first shooting, and yet Ben continues to fight death in every chapter. Ben is also very resourceful. My kids were in awe at the way he dug woodpecker nests out of the Saguara cactus to use for shoes. When those were gone, he wove sandals out of Yucca leaves. It inspired us to take a test on desert survival. Most of us wouldn't survive.
By seeing through Ben's eyes, I gained a new appreciation for survivors. I was always impressed with survival stories, but I did not truly appreciate the human spirit and the indomitable will to live. I do not think I have the same determination.
Rob White has a talent for descriptive language. When he describes Ben's tongue and body as it dehydrates, my kids moaned in agony with Ben. The descriptions of thirst are so vivid, my students were constantly asking to get drinks. If I wasn't so thirsty myself, I would have told them they weren't really thirsty, it was just the book.
This book is action packed. The only part my students found boring was a few pages of description on how the desert was originally formed.
The best part of this book was the fact the kids absolutely loved it. One chapter ended on a cliffhanger and the kids begged me to keep reading. I told them it was the end of the chapter and one boy yelled, "Just read four more pages." Laughing, I said, "The bells going to ring in 2 minutes." The kids groaned and one yelled, "Ms. Cooke, how could you do that to him? Now he will be stuck there for four days!" They were still grumbling as they left. That's my definition of a good book!