Review by Jakki Licare
400 Minutes of Danger
By Jack Heath
The second book in this thrilling series takes readers around the world and to the edge of their seat with ten life-or-death situations, ten brave kids, and ten linked stories that prove anyone can be a hero even if they only have 40 minutes to escape!
This synopsis contains spoilers
Nika is climbing a wall of ice in Northern Pakistan when she notices her shoes and gloves are wet. As she examines closer, she realizes the glacier has thawed on the inside and the water is trickling out. She’s climbing an ice shell which at any moment will crack! Not only is her life in danger, but the entire village where she has been staying will be swept away too. When the only car in town drives by, Nika quickly devises a plan. But at what cost?
On a field trip to a national park, Charith notices a camouflaged gunman sneaking around. After alerting his class, they rush onto the bus, but as they exit the park a bomb is detonated in front of them. The bus driver is blinded and Charith takes over driving the treacherous winding roads with no brakes. As if that isn’t bad enough the camouflaged gunman chases them down the mountain and starts shooting at them. Charith uses the emergency flare gun to shoot the gunman who loses control and careens off the mountain.
When Sally enrolled in a science program for extra credit, she had no idea she’d be helping Dr. Volchek capture the Vampirius Colossi, a.k.a. giant mosquito. After hiking through a jungle and dodging driver ants, they’ve just found some larvae when a “baby” Vampirius Colossi attacks Dr.Volchek. Swinging a broken branch at it, Sally discovers that the pollen on the branch repels the mosquito. Sally is dragging Dr. Volchek to safety when a mosquito the size of a car chases her. Sally makes a daring escape and with the help from a surprising source, she and Dr. Volchek make their way out of the jungle.
As Brad and his best friend creep through the zoo on a mission to prank a volunteer with water balloons, they notice that a thief has broken into an enclosure. But before they can decide what to do, Brad is spotted by a guard and races off. To hide from the guard he dangles from a viewing platform, but accidentally slips into a lion’s enclosure. The lion pounces at him, but his teeth sink into a surprise instead and he backs off. Brad uses the diversion to climb the fence, but a lioness is closing in when a surprising person comes to his aid.
In this story set in the future, Iresha is tasked with diving for iron samples from shipwrecks, but when she reaches the seabed, she discovers that the shipwreck isn’t where it should be. With a limited air supply and a strange hum all around, Iresha finds the wreck and collects her samples. While crossing a deep ravine an earthquake hits, the ship snaps in half, and Iresha must escape. Suddenly the chasm erupts in lava. Iresha swims upward with lava close behind and rocks pummel her from all sides. At last, she breaches the surface onto a newly made island of basalt, an iron rich rock.
List oversees a secret organization and Kelsey accepts a mission to spy on him. Pretending to be the daughter of one of List’s employees, she convinces List to take her into his secret dome. infiltrates his secret dome. The dome turns out to be an enclosed habitat with two of every animal. List even has a dinosaur, which Kelsey knows he stole from a cruise ship which was transporting genetically modified embryos. Kelsey steals List’s phone and realizes that he’s started a countdown to explode an underwater volcano that will destroy earth’s atmosphere. With List on her heels, Kelsey races into the dinosaur’s enclosure to hide and calls SPII headquarters to warn them. The dinosaur attacks her, but Kelsey knocks it out using karate. SPII is powerless to help, leaving it up to Kelsey to find List’s radio detonator. Through clever negotiations with List, Kelsey discovers where the detonator is and aborts the explosive.
Kids are also pitted against a sinking ship, a compactor, a robot, and a snake in more heart-racing stories.
These fast-paced short stories are the perfect read for reluctant readers. The high stakes and life-and-death situations make this book an easy page turner. These short stories are not overwhelming and will leave the reader satisfied.
Each story takes place within a forty-minute time frame and running along the margins of each story is a timer, marking how much time is left. The countdown really amps up the stakes and makes you want to read on as the protagonists must fight for their lives while the time dwindles. In “Sinking,” Nancy has just located her trapped dog in her cabin when the ship rolls to its side, flooding her escape; only fifteen minutes and fifteen seconds left. Nancy squeezes her dog through the opening of her porthole; ten minutes left. Another bomb explodes on the ship and Nancy’s room begins to flood faster; nine minutes and five seconds left. Her porthole is jammed shut from the last explosion, preventing her escape; seven minutes and forty seconds left. She takes one final gasp of air and holds her breath; six minutes and fifty seconds left. Intense, right? The “margin timer” adds an extra layer of tension, pulling us in and making us cheer on the heroes/heroines as their time ticks down.
My favorite part of 400 Minutes of Danger is that each hero/heroine is an everyday teen. These heroes and heroines must rely on their quick thinking, luck, and ingenuity to get out of extremely dangerous situations. I like how Jack Heath does not have protagonists rely on cool technology to get them out of trouble, just their wits. In “Nightmare,” Harry uses his knowledge that snakes become lethargic in colder temperatures. So when a deadly snake starts advancing on him and his parents, he switches the air conditioner on with his remote, and the snake becomes distracted and eventually goes to sleep. I also like how there are an equal number of male and female protagonists throughout the book.
While each story can be read on its own and feel satisfyingly complete, Heath takes 400 Minutes of Danger a step further and connects all of these isolated stories in the final short story. As the reader goes along through the book, they can start to pick out clues and pieces of information that link the stories together. In “The Island,” Heath then weaves all the stories together so that each of Heath’s dropped clues come together like a beautiful puzzle, taking his ending to a whole new level.
Parental Considerations: Some of the stories contain violence and have a villain with murderous intentions.
400 Minutes of Danger is a fast-paced, suspenseful book that’s perfect for adrenaline lovers. If your kids enjoy the I Survived Series then 400 Minutes of Danger will make a great addition to your shelf. For more thrills and chills, check out the first book in the series, 300 Minutes of Danger.
Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sharing a copy of 400 Minutes of Danger for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.
Ages 10 and up
Sterling Children’s Books 2016 | ISBN 978-1454938392
You can learn more about Jack Heath and his other books for children and adults on his website.
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