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Published by: Firefly Press, 2020
I have to admit that when I saw the front cover of this book, I massively misjudged it. Despite being set in one of my favourite settings, the Amazon, I thought I was in for an easy-going, rather light-hearted read.
How wrong I was! Emma Rea tells a thrilling tale which doesn't pull any punches when it comes to high stakes, nail-biting tension, desperate danger and ruthless adults. What's more it tackles tough and very relevant issues about child poverty and the devastation humans can wreak on the world's precious, natural habitats.
Dylan is distraught when he discovers his beloved family farm is being sold to large, international pharmaceutical company, Bluebird. But when he discovers that Floyd, a boy from his school, has a close connection to Bluebird and needs help, a crazy plan starts to form. While the rest of their class go on a Geography trip, Dylan and Floyd secretly fly to Brazil to find answers. But their plan soon goes disastrously wrong when Floyd is kidnapped and Dylan finds himself lost and alone on the streets of a favela. Can street kid Lucia, with her puppy and thesaurus, help him pull off a rescue plan deep in the Amazon?
I loved the ambitiousness of this plot, which is mainly set in the fascinating jungle wilderness of South America. Dylan was a great main character who felt very real. His love and loyalty towards his family and home was endearing and gave him a motivation which was bursting with heart. It was refreshing that he didn't enjoy or do well at school but was a confident, head-strong boy who revelled in his love of the outdoors. I adored his unique ability to see what flowed through other character's veins, which gave him an uncanny insightfulness rather than magical qualities.
However, as much as I loved Dylan, it was Lucia who truly stole my heart with her big heart, her quirky, humorous language (all thanks to her precious thesaurus) and her general exuberance for life despite having nothing and no one, except for her Great Dane puppy. To have a pair of characters so fired up with hope and determination and ambition made this story hugely unique and enjoyable - to the point that one night I found myself too enthralled to go to bed.
Miss. Crassy and her henchman, Anton, were the antipathy of Dylan's loving family and Mac; cruel, ruthless and powerful grown-ups who were prepared to go to shocking and rather brutal lengths to protect their vile secrets. Through them, the positive and empowering ambition of Dylan and Lucia was flipped on it's head to show how deadly it can be when coming from a place of greed not love. The protagonists' pure motivation meant we were rooting for them from the first to last page.
I could probably spout on all day about this novel but if you are looking for a fantastically written, high impact tale which will challenge readers to think and feel all kinds of big emotions about issues that need to be thought about then this is it. It encourages all of us to speak up for what we are passionate about (although not perhaps by putting ourselves in such extreme danger as Dylan and Floyd) and I can see it being a fantastic novel for teachers to use in the classroom to enhance curriculum topics and initiate discussion. Simply a must read!