Killer-Diller Thriller: The Last Man's Reward
If you know a guy who hates to read novels, this book is for him. David Patneaude's The Last Man's Reward keeps enough suspense going to satisfy the reluctant reader and the adventure fan right to the end.
Albert (Alibi) Alger is one of a group of guys loosely drawn together because their families' jobs at a giant software company have brought them temporarily together in the same apartment complex. Somewhat intimidated by the drill sergeant tactics of their ringleader Nick, the boys, dubbed by their leader as Alibi, Small Dog, Yuno, and Princess, agree to chip in their pocket change to buy a box of baseball cards at a yard sale sight unseen. When one card turns out to be worth nearly four thousand dollars, the guys can't agree on a fair way to divide the spoils. Albert suggests that they make a "last man pact:" since all of their families are looking for a house to buy, the guys agree that the card will go to the last one remaining in the apartment complex. To seal their pact, the boys bury the baseball cards inside an old mine in a spot which can only be reached by jumping over an underground stream. Nick, Small Dog, and Princess make the jump, but Alibi and Yuno are forced to admit that they can't do it.
When school begins, Alibi and Yuno begin working separately on their long jumping skills under the tutelage of their hard nosed P.E. teacher. When Alibi learns that he has won the last man's reward, he sets out alone to make the leap and retrieve his prize from the cave--with nearly fatal results. Alone in the dark mine, in icy water and unable to climb back to the ledge, Alibi knows that Nick is the only one of his friends who knows where he is and that he can only wait and hope for rescue.
Patneaude handles the middle-school guy dialogue deftly and builds suspense convincingly as the novel moves swiftly toward the "thrilling conclusion." It's a fine page-turner with a believable bit of coming-of-age self discovery as well.
Labels: Adolescent Boys (Grades 5-8)