Flames race toward Sam Castine's summer camp as evacuation buses are loading, but Sam runs back to get his phone. Suddenly, a flash of heat blasts him as pine trees explode. Now a wall of fire separates Sam from his bus, and there's only one thing to do: Run for his life. Run or die.
Lungs burning, Sam's only goal is to keep moving. Drought has made the forest a tinderbox, and Sam struggles to remember survival tricks he learned from his late father. Then, when he least expects it, he encounters Delphy, an older girl who is also lost. Their unlikely friendship grows as they join forces to find civilization.
The pace never slows, and eventually flames surround Sam and Delphy on all sides. A powerful bond is forged that can only grow out of true hardship -- as two true friends beat all odds and outwit one of the deadliest fires ever.
At the end of the novel, information about wildfires and useful safety tips add to the reader's understanding of one of the US's most dangerous natural disasters.
In this high-octane adventure, Sam Castine, 12, is trapped in a Maine wildfire after he foolishly leaves the safety of his camp's evacuation buses and dashes back to retrieve his forgotten phone. When a wall of fire blocks his return, he's forced to flee farther into the wilderness to stay ahead of the blaze. Relying on skills taught to him by his late father, who died in Afghanistan, Sam is driven by his will to survive and reconnect with his mother, who is in rehab for an opioid addiction. By chance, Sam's path crosses with Delphy Pappas, 14, also fighting to escape the wildfire, and the two join forces to stay alive. Newbery Honoree Philbrick wastes no time in plunging the protagonist into danger, launching into an escapade filled with descriptions that feel immediate and tangible, powerfully conveying the destructive and terrifying reality of an uncontrollable wildfire. Though Sam and Delphy's repeatedly foiled escape efforts can feel slightly repetitious, multiple dead ends also clarify the impossibility of their situation. Both thrilling and instructive, this tale of friendship amid deadly flames will captivate readers. Ages 8 12.