Imagine living in the hot sun, in the poorest town in the Arizona desert—Nowhere. In a town with the lowest graduation rate in the state, you wouldn’t expect much. Nowhere has some strange things—two bars, an ostrich farm, an excessive number of bullies. Still, in all of its dusty glory, Nowhere’s biggest claim to fame is the Dead Frenchman Mine. When the dreaded town terrorizer, Bo, demands that Gus go into the mine and fetch him a piece of gold, Gus is terrified. But his friend’s dirt bike is on the line, and he won’t let her down—at least, until he figures out just how scary the mine can be.
I checked this book out half-heartedly, not expecting much. However, my mind was changed as I dove further and further into this captivating, heartfelt story, and realized just how wrong I was to underestimate this book. With relatable characters, a unique plot, and conflict that leaves you empathizing with those who have to endure it, it’s not hard to immediately fall in love with this story.
This book especially stood out to me because the characters are so much more than they appear to be. At first, these characters seem like your average middle schoolers, nothing exciting about them. Yet, when disaster strikes, we learn so much about them. From cave-ins to treacherous pits and holes, the characters learn so much about each other. They share a hatred of Nowhere, and a fear of what haunts them from their past. On their journey, they don’t only discover new things about each other, they discover new elements in themselves and the bonds they share with one another. “I’ll be defined by what I do in this life, not by what anyone else does to me or says about me. None of that matters. All that matters is what I do.” That inspiring quote is an example of one of the many lessons demonstrated in the story.
24 Hours in Nowhere teaches us so many things, but one of the most meaningful lessons is to not judge people without fully understanding their stories. When Gus, Rossi, Matthew, and Jesse adventure into the ominous Dead Frenchman Mine, they face challenges, but they also overcome emotional challenges with each other, and the characters are able to lift some weight off their shoulders and express their feelings with each other. The most unlikely group is able to bond through their hardships and similarities in their past and their struggles. “What struggles do I have, and how are they similar to the characters?” was the question I continuously asked myself.
24 Hours in Nowhere lets you sympathize with the characters. It’s an enjoyable book because it lets you reflect on your own life and think about how there are less fortunate people in the world around us. Any fans of Dusti Bowling’s The Canyon’s Edge will enjoy this book because of their similar personal struggles and discoveries. Anyone who enjoys adventure, realistic fiction, and real-world issues will connect to the plot and the characters.
Overall, I quite enjoyed reading Dusti Bowling’s mesmerizing novel that is filled with emotion and sprinkled with just the right amount of humor. Not only is this book about survival, but it lets you reflect on your own life and find similarities with the characters.
24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling. Union Square Kids, 2020. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!