This pacey, challenge-packed MG novel takes place in a quick 24-hour period, with seemingly insurmountable odds stacked against the hopeful and likeable protagonists.
ABOUT THE BOOK: Dusti Bowling’s 24 HOURS IN NOWHERE is kooky and vivid, with a rich and detailed setting, multidimensional characters, and a plot engine that roars ahead as the protagonists race to beat a ticking clock. Most amazing of all is how much we care about the main characters almost immediately. It’s hard to believe that Bowling can pack so much backstory into a book without bogging down the plot, but she deftly sprinkles crucial information throughout the story like cookie crumbs, so that by the end of the book readers have the satisfaction of really understanding the characters and the desolate town of Nowhere quite well. It is no mean trick to weave in so much exposition without boring the reader (especially in just 260 pages).
Here’s the story, in brief: 13-year-old Gus, abandoned by his dad, lives with his eccentric and disengaged grandma in a decrepit trailer where he dreams of using the SAT to launch himself out of Nowhere to a brighter future. When the local bully lays down a challenge that puts Gus’s honor at stake (along with the dirt bike of his crush), Gus sets out on a quest with limited supplies and a band of unlikely associates. Facing collapsed mines, mountain lions, pitch darkness, albino shrimp, claustrophobia, near-drownings, and more, Gus rises to the challenge, radiating kindness, leadership, and bravery while maintaining his dignity and sense of humor throughout.
WHY I READ IT: I read it as a reviewer for KidLitExchange, a kids' book reviewer collective I belong to. I requested it because I am trying to branch out of reading mostly girl-centric middle grade books (with a heavy leaning toward historical fiction). This was definitely a new area for me as a reader.
WOULD I RECOMMEND IT: Yes! I loved it. 24 HOURS IN NOWHERE is an inspiring book about kids from very tough circumstances who, despite typical middle school issues, ultimately prop each other up when times get tough. It offers plenty of hope and some road maps to better living (college, competitive racing, homegrown industry) and shows how the everyday kindnesses of adults (social workers, parents who simply feed other kids, shopkeepers who offer discounts when needed) can be lifelines to kids who have so little. These lessons are delivered so palatably—with heaps of humor and action—readers won’t even notice that they’re gulping them down.