REVIEW: Staying Alive by Debra Webb
Dear Ms Webb,
I’m sorry but I can’t get the Bee Gees’ song (“Ah, ah, ah, ah Staying Aliiiiiiiiiiiiive!”) or visions of John Travolta in a white suit, striking a pose out of my head. OK, I’ll stop that now since it has nothing to do with a plot about a teacher dodging terrorists with the help of the FBI.
When her teaching day started, Claire Grant had no idea of the horror that awaited her. In a moment, what had been a normal day with her fifth grade class turned into a showdown with terrorists determined to bargain the lives of her students for the freedom of one of their own. Acting on instinct and her training with rifles, Claire thwarts their sick determination to have her shoot one of her pupils and opens the way for the SWAT team to take most of them down. All except one who vows revenge on Claire as he’s hauled off. “You are dead,” he snarled at her and soon Claire would learn just what he meant.
When the captured terrorist escapes, Claire is provided with a twenty-four hour police guard. When the leader of the terrorist group, also one of the most wanted men in the world, begins to take his revenge on Claire for the death of his only son during the school raid, the FBI step in. Claire is taken into protective custody and her entire world turned upside down. Abdul Nusair is determined to make Claire “die for [her] transgression. Over and over again.” And to do this, he’ll force Claire to react to a series of situations in which students from her school are kidnapped and placed in mortal danger. Only Claire is allowed to try to save them and for thirty-six hours, she has to battle her fears and risk death for their lives.
I have to admit that when the book starts, Claire comes across as a kind of naive, blindly supportive “gosh, the government must know what it’s doing and it can save the world from terrorists” innocent. That innocence is quickly stripped away as she realizes that the FBI isn’t all knowing, that they can’t immediately stop the horror going on and that, though they will try to protect her, to stop Nusair, they might be willing to trade her life.
If it will save her students, Claire is reluctantly willing to make that sacrifice but she wants to be sure the FBI isn’t just going to use her as bait to catch Nusair. I can totally understand her frustration with the agents as she tries to drag information out of them and get them to see her as a person and not only a tool to use. And the set up of the book actually makes more sense reading it than it does as I summarized above.
I thought you captured the heart pounding terror of the intense action scenes as well as Claire’s bewilderment as her tidy world spins out of her control plus her anger at the way both the terrorists and the FBI take over her life. Though the story focuses more on action than on romance, I thought the attraction between Claire and FBI agent Luke Krueger was intense. I was glad that you decided to leave the story open ended rather than trying to have us believe in “love forever more” after only 3 days and more time spent defusing bombs rather than getting to know each other. B for Staying Alive.