ALONE Book Review by Melissa Hope


by Megan E. Freeman

Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing middle grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town. When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned. With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten. As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?

Megan E. Freeman attended an elementary school where poets visited her classroom every week and she has been a writer ever since. She writes middle grade and young adult fiction, as well as poetry for adults.

Also an award-winning teacher, Megan has decades of experience teaching in the arts and humanities and is nationally recognized for her work leading professional development workshops for educators.

Twitter: @meganefreeman

Melissa's Review

A modern-day Island of the Blue Dolphins, ALONE is the frightening Middle-Grade story of twelve-year-old Maddie, a girl who is accidentally left behind after an "imminent threat" causes the city to evacuate immediately.

Although she holds on to hope at first that somebody will soon rescue her, the hope dwindles as the power and water shut off, phone lines are dead, and pets are left to die in their homes. Maddie must rely on her ingenuity if she's to brave her forgotten Colorado town and stay alive, even if it means never seeing her family again.

My favorite part of this book is that it is told in-verse. It was beautifully written and expertly constructed, a delightful contrast from the story's content, which is supposed to be chaotic and apocalyptic. I enjoyed Maddie as a character and watched her learn to survive independently, both physically and mentally. She seeks help from obvious places at first but then learns to educate herself and grow up quickly as she must in the dire circumstances. I especially loved how many literary references the author uses in the book to help the reader connect with the world Maddie has left behind. It's clear the author's love for reading has influenced how she wanted Maddie to cope with tragedy and loneliness, a lesson I think we can all learn from books. Throughout ALONE, we are reminded of the treasures books hold, from providing education, such as learning how to build a fire, to connecting on a personal level with an author that may have died over a hundred years ago. Words are a powerful resource for humankind's survival, and I appreciated that the author emphasized this.

One such way Maddie navigates her survival is through confiding in a rottweiler named George, a dog she rescued from a home where the owners never returned. George and Maddie work together to find materials and collect food, but they also provide companionship that each desperately needs. Without George, this would have been a very different story as the dog keeps Maddie from giving up. He gives her a purpose. One example of how he helps her is when wild animals start to roam through the town, George is able to warn her and protect her from danger. In turn, she takes care of him and keeps him protected from other threats that enter the deserted town.

As a kid, I loved survival books like Hatchet and Island of the Blue Dolphins, and ALONE gave me the same thrilling feeling. From the beginning evacuation to the last page, I was gripped, finding myself jumping into bed to read hours before I usually do so that I could find out what happens next. This is a book I know young readers will enjoy, especially those willing to ask themselves the difficult question: What if?

Thank you to Simon and Schuster and Netgalley for the ARC!

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Melissa Hope is passionate about helping writers improve their craft and connect with the writing community. She escaped the frostbite normalcy of Canadian winters to live in Florida with her family, bipolar cat, and growing collection of scuba gear. Visit her website to watch free writing tutorials. Twitter: @hopefullhappens Instagram: @hopefullhappenings Youtube: HopeFullHappenings