Twelve-year-old Ali Kensington has a slight problem telling the truth. She tells her classmates about her experience in the wild, eating bugs and surviving animal attacks. This is plausible because her dad, George Kensington, is Survivor Guy, star of a hit nature show. But unlike her older brother, Jake, Ali’s never actually been on set, let alone participated in the adventure. Instead, she reads as many nature and survival guides as she can, preparing for the day she’ll really need those skills.
Ali also has trouble telling the truth about more mundane things, like what’s happening in her parents’ marriage, which frustrates her best friend, Harper. But a fight over Ali’s little white lies takes a back seat when Ali’s dad, who’s supposed to watch her for the week, instead takes Ali and her brother into the Great Dismal Swamp to tape a family episode of “Survivor Guy.” Ali is terrified—and feels unready to truly test her survival knowledge—until she finds out the truth about Survivor Guy: There are lots of cameras, scripted scenes, stunt doubles, animal handlers, cushy trailers and even a professional chef. But when a wildfire burns through the swamp and Ali is left behind by a rescue helicopter, she has a chance to prove to herself and her family that she has the skills and confidence to be a survivor.
This fun and relatable story remixes the classic wilderness survival plot with reality TV and features a resourceful, complex female protagonist. A great middle grade summer read with STEM themes and solid character development, Survivor Girl will entertain and inspire.