Title: The Sandbox
Author: JW Patrick
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
In The Sandbox, anything is possible. For Isla, Dan, and Sonny, the Sandbox is a safe haven for them. Another world, or rather, a world within ours, that seems to be connected to their reality, but they aren’t entirely sure how. The teens are thrust into the alternate universe, and as they quickly discover the powers of the surreal place, they struggle to figure out what it is, what it’s capable of, and what it’s even doing here.
Seventeen-year-old Isla Duncan is on a mission: she wants to hand cycle as many miles as she can to raise money for charity. In Oklahoma, she underestimates a storm that turns from bad to worse in seconds. Local boys Dan and Sonny save her and bring her back to their secret hideout, a cave on Native American reservation land.
From beginning to end, Isla, Dan, and Sonny were naturally funny, enjoyable, and entertaining leaders of the novel. Though they struggle to resist the temptations the Sandbox invokes, their charisma, intelligence, and desire to use the newfound technology for good revealed their honest nature and made them all the more likeable.
The night of the storm, something strange happens. The three realize they had the same peculiar dream and find mysterious, spider-like tattoos all over their bodies. The boys are spooked, but Isla feels compelled to go back to the cave and try to replicate the experience.
When they do, they discover something indescribable, a place they call the Sandbox: a simulation-like place, which they reach in a dream-state, that can transform into any place you want it to be, access any information you want, and practically stop time in the real world.
The Sandbox is a completely unique creation; the evocative descriptions of not just how it looked, but how it felt to be there, move around, and interact with the environment made the reading experience enchanting and engrossing.
The mystery surrounding the history, intentions, and capabilities of the Sandbox was one of the strongest aspects of the novel. Readers will be kept on their toes as they follow the characters and their adventures in the Sandbox.
Although the characters’ youth gave the story a lighthearted, energetic vibe, the restrictions that came with them being underage, specifically the presence of Isla’s father, and the need to provide explanations and excuses to him, created unneeded and often uninteresting conflict. In addition, Isla’s father’s resignation to his daughter’s secrecy and disappearances were, at times, unrealistic.
The inclusion of multiple, real-world perspectives including Dan, a Native American who is hardened by the mistreatment of Natives by the government and poor American farmer families, like Sonny’s. The diverse social roles added a level of dynamism to the characters and plot that was relatable and often emotional.
The novel’s storyline flows with ease and the tension builds more quickly the deeper the characters fall into the Sandbox. Exciting and unpredictable, the explosive finale ends in a cliffhanger that is sure to leave readers’ mouths hanging wide open.
In The Sandbox, the stakes are high as alien technology and three, over-excited teenagers take the lead in this fun adventure story. Fantasy meets science fiction to create an action-packed plot that will keep readers guessing all the way through. With whimsical imagery, Patrick’s imaginative novel is entertaining, stimulating, and captivating.
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