Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Genre: Young Adult / Thrillers & Suspense
When a fire engulfs an Oregon forest, a group of trapped hikers must
find another way out in this unrelenting teen-vs-nature thriller.
Natalia is not the kind of girl who takes risks. Six years ago, she
barely survived the house fire that killed her baby brother. Now she is
cautious and always plays it safe. For months, her friend Wyatt has
begged her to come hiking with him, and Natalia finally agrees. But when
a wildfire breaks out, blocking the trail back, a perfect sunny day
quickly morphs into a nightmare. With no cell service, few supplies, and
no clear way out of the burning forest, a group of strangers will have
to become allies if they’re going to survive.
Set against the wrenching, familiar backdrop of a devastating wildfire, Playing with Fire is a tightly paced thriller and a rousing survival story. For fans of Gary Paulsen and Karen McManus.
Playing by Fire, by author April Henry, is a story of survival against almost impossible odds. This book is inspired by real life events. The 2017 Eagle Creek Fire Columbia Gorge which was started by a 15-year-old playing with fireworks. 17-year old Natalia avoids risks after surviving a house fire as a child, but she agrees to go on a day hike with Wyatt, a friend and outdoors enthusiast. When a forest fire erupts leaving them along with 10 others stranded in the woods trying to find their way to safety, Natalia knows first hand just how bad fire can be.
6 years ago, she survived a house fire that killed her baby brother, but she carries the heavy burden of guilt and grief. Natalia has to confront her PTSD and fear of fire in order to make it out of the woods and help the others in her group. As Natalia faces the wildfires, she has flashbacks to six years ago and the fire that changed her life. This allows the reader to learn more about why she fears fire so much and the trauma she is facing now she is confronted with flames again.
Wyatt and Natalia make a great team. It’s easy to see their connection, though Natalia is playing it safe and keeping the walls up around her heart, knowing Wyatt may not look at her in the same way once he knows the truth about what her past holds. Wyatt (who is an Eagle scout) serves as the leader, instructing everyone to stick together and using his skills and resources to form the best plan for the group. Natalia acts as the medic since she is the one with the most training among the group.
The book makes you aware of the importance of first aid training and always being prepared for an emergency no matter where you go. Even leaving your home for the grocery store can be met with challenges especially if you are caught in a snow storm. Been there, done that! The group suffers just about every medical emergency possible on the trek to get away from the fire and back to civilization, including (but not limited to!) burns, bee sting, asthma attack, panic attack, BEAR attack, and various scratches and damaged limbs.
The story does a fantastic job of exploring the horrific consequences of fires and the importance of treating it responsibly, without being sanctimonious, and all within the plot of adventure and survival. After the incident with her brother, Natalia was urged to see a psychiatrist to deal with her PTSD, panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, and flashbacks. Here are some interesting ideas for those who have panic attacks like me:
Name 5 things you can see.
Name 4 things you can touch.
Name 3 things you can hear.
Name 2 things you can smell.
Name 1 thing you can taste.