‘Island Danger’ a Safe Choice for Tweens

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Former Harbor Day teacher and Newport Beach resident Margo Sorenson is at it again. The prolific writer, known for her picture books and squeaky-clean teen romances, is releasing her newest story and first e-book, “Island Danger,” today.

Put out by Canada-based Muse Publishing, the book marks Sorenson’s first foray into digital media. As more and more kids are picking up iPads and putting down books, publishing an e-book that targets the tween and middle-grade audience seems an inspired choice.

In “Island Danger,” readers meet Todd Halliday, a 14-year-old soccer star who is being forced to spend the summer on Oahu with his dorky cousin and uber-strict aunt and uncle while his parents are away.

Soon after arriving, Todd discovers that a dangerous group of Hawaiian extremists is operating near his family’s home. It is believed that they are stockpiling weapons, and growing “pakalolo,” or marijuana, in the ravine running behind their neighborhood.

Since this group, known as Da Hui, is planning to overthrow the U.S. government and reclaim Hawaiian sovereignty, local law enforcement agencies and military are on high alert trying to bring them down.

In a misguided attempt to prove that he is old enough to take care of himself, and earn respect from his family, Todd makes it his mission to unearth the cache of weapons and bring the criminals to justice.

Along the way, we meet Todd’s summer school classmates, a surfing buddy, and the local bully, learning also that people are not always who they appear to be.

Sorenson has peppered her characters’ dialogue with a liberal use of pidgin – a sort of local slang dialect – giving the book an authentic Hawaiian feel. Adding to its authenticity is a very astute description of how native Hawaiians feel about their island home and the spirit of aloha.

At an easy to read 81 pages of actual text, this book makes a great summer reading choice for middle graders. My own 5th grader has been enticed by the danger and ntrigue the story-line promises and is excited to start it as soon as he finishes his current book.

As a parent, I appreciate that this book offers young readers that edgy danger factor, without also including the bad language and poor role models that often inhabit tween literature.

I also love that this book appeals to boys. It is a challenge these days to find novels for the tween crowd that aren’t peopled with half-humans, zombies, and vampires.  Once we also cross off those that chronicle star-crossed lovers, the pickings get even slimmer. Add in the fact that no matter how good the book is, if the main character is female, it immediately becomes a “girl book,” and you can appreciate my dilemma.

This is where Sorenson is a master.  As a long-time educator and a mother herself, she knows how to walk the line of keeping a book interesting but still appropriate. Her life experience has also made her keenly aware of the voids that need to be filled in literature for our young people.

Perhaps the highest praise I can give to both Sorenson and her body of work is that I would feel comfortable allowing even my younger boys to read any of her books, without having to worry about what new information they will learn, or which unexpected questions I will have to answer.

Bravo again, Ms. Sorenson. Mahalo for a story well told!

For more information on how to purchase “Island Danger,” or any of Margo Sorenson’s books, visit margosorenson.com.

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