CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 6. . . .November 7, 2008
Scarlet Thunder. (Orca Sports).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
172 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Motion picture industry-Juvenile fiction.
Stock car racing-Juvenile fiction.
Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.
Review by Joan Marshall.
Brian's camera light was not on.
How could he see anything through the viewfinder if the camera wasn't on?
I tapped him on the shoulder. I pointed to the dull light.
His jaw dropped. "Sorry, man," he said. "I just got so caught up in watching the race that I stopped paying attention to my viewfinder." And at that moment, the roar of a hundred and fifty thousand people was so loud that he snapped his head back toward the track. It snapped me back to the track too. Along with my handheld. I had the viewfinder so glued to my eye that it was just like another part of my body. I saw that in front of us, a car was spinning out of control. Another car slammed into its back end. Then another. Three other cars zoomed by. They all separated so quickly that the next car didn't see the stopped cars until the very last second. Into my viewfinder came the next car. Red. Sandy Peterson's car. And she had less than a heartbeat to react to the accident.
Trenton spends his summers as a gopher on his Uncle Mike's film shoots, but finally he is promoted to camera person just as the crew tackles an important documentary on stock car racing, one with rising female star Sandy Peterson and her Scarlet Thunder team the focus. But then odd incidents begin to pile up, delaying filming and jeopardizing not only Uncle Mike's documentary but also his big-time plans for a major movie. However, Trenton scouts out and foils the bad guy who is willing to sacrifice everything to succeed in Hollywood, and Sandy works with Trenton and Mike to finish the documentary in time.
Any teens who are interested in cars will dive right into this fast moving hi-lo novel that offers a gritty picture of the details of racing cars and also highlights the career of film producer and camera person. Both of these angles fascinate today's teens, especially boys, who will relish the talk of so much money to be made so easily.
Trenton moves from hero-worshipping his uncle and the cool, observer role of the camera person, to the realization that he needs to re-connect with his family. Its interesting that the villain is really only one step away from Mike and Trenton in his determination to succeed. Sandy, the driver, plays a gender bender role that today's teens of both sexes will admire: the straightforward, level headed, calm, cool, focused driver supported by a strong team of experts.
Scarlet Thunder book will draw reluctant and weak readers and keep them hooked enough not only to finish the book but also to ask for more.
Joan Marshall is a Winnipeg, MB, bookseller whose husband used to race cars.
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