One girl sets out on a journey across the treacherous Arizona desert to rescue a young pilot stranded after a plane crash in this gripping story of friendship, courage, and rescue.
Twelve-year-old Jolene spends every day she can at the library watching her favorite livestream: The Desert Aviator, where twelve-year-old “Addie Earhart” shares her adventures flying an ultralight plane over the desert. While watching this daring girl fly through the sky, Jolene can dream of what it would be like to fly with her, far away from her own troubled home life where her mother struggles with a narcotic addiction. And Addie, who is grieving the loss of her father, finds solace in her online conversations with Jolene, her biggest—and only—fan.
Then, one day, it all goes wrong: Addie's engine abruptly stops, and Jolene watches in helpless horror as the ultralight plummets to the ground and the video goes dark. Jolene knows that Addie won’t survive long in the extreme summer desert heat. With no one to turn to for help and armed with only a hand-drawn map and a stolen cell phone, it's up to Jolene to find a way to save the Desert Aviator. Packed with adventure and heart, Across the Desert speaks to the resilience, hope, and strength within each of us.
Praise for ACROSS THE DESERT
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
"Compelling and Honest. I loved this book. - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, two-time Newbery Honoree and NY Times bestselling author
"A page-turner with heart." - Kirkus
★ Gr 3-7–Twelve-year-old Jolene is used to taking care of herself. Ever since a car accident severely injured her mother and caused her slide into opioid addiction, Jolene is alternately upset with and fiercely protective of her, despite their descent into poverty and occasional homelessness. She takes refuge from the Phoenix heat in the library each day, where she reserves travel books, draws maps, researches remarkable female pioneers, and follows livestreamer Addie Earhart’s aerial adventures. Addie is grieving the loss of her father and flying their ultralight plane alone in the desert without her mother’s knowledge, and the lonely pair strike up a connection. When Addie crash lands and the impact cuts off the feed, Jolene can’t get anyone to go search for her. She has a pretty good idea of where Addie might be, and, realizing she’s the only one who knows about the accident, scrounges meager supplies and sets out by bus to find her. Luckily for Jolene, she meets 17-year-old Marty on her journey, and the two end up searching for Addie together. Jolene’s voice is instantly compelling, making suspending disbelief at the unique and dangerous scenario quite easy. The tension ratchets up insidiously as the desert heat rises and time seems to keep running out. Alongside the budding friendships, the depiction of parental addiction is utterly realistic and heartbreaking.
VERDICT The book’s dedication, “For you, the child of an addict, I see you,” says it all. A first purchase. - School Library Journal, starred review
★ In downtown Phoenix, Jolene, 12 and cued white, is watching her favorite livestream. Hosted by her virtual friend Addie Earhart, also white, who lives more than 100 miles away and with whom Jolene exchanges direct messages, the young explorer’s show helps Jolene escape from her own reality. A couple of years ago, Jolene and her mother were in a car accident that has left the latter with an Oxycodone addiction; the resulting home situation leaves Jolene isolated and hungry (“My life is so filled with If I hads that it sometimes feels like I’m drowning in them”). But then Jolene is the sole witness to Addie’s ultralight-trike crash. Capturing friendship history and mutual loss through the girls’ messages, Bowling (The Canyon’s Edge) immerses readers into Jolene’s small world, and how it slowly opens as she follows her own path, fighting against her own PTSD “car-crash feeling” and the discouragement of others, to rescue Addie and perhaps herself. Bowling’s passion for the desert and its inhabitants—as well as a personal understanding of children of adults with addictions—is clear and powerful in this tense, poignant story about the essential nature of friendship and life’s unexpected possibilities. Back matter features an author’s note. Ages 8–12. - Publisher's Weekly, starred review