“This summer’s undoubtable smash hit… an addictive, heart-palpitating story.” —Marie Claire
“Meh” – Me
Do Not Become Alarmed is the new “it” book of the summer (apparently) which tells the story of Los Angeles cousins Liv and Nora, who decide to take their families on a cruise to Central American over the holidays to avoid family drama. All is well at first, until they decide on a shore excursion (ziplining for the women and kids and golf for the men) and a series of events unfolds which leads to all six children disappearing and all hell breaking loose.
When faced with this kind of stress in an unfamiliar environment, everyone immediately turns into the worst, most racist, privileged and vile version of themselves and it is not that easy to watch/read. The parents blame each other (and there is certainly blame to go around – everyone did something wrong) and turn on each other. Everything falls apart pretty quickly.
The book is told in (way too many) alternating POV, including the children’s. We find that the children have been carried away by the tide and, once ashore, stumble onto a crime scene. They are then taken and held in a dangerous house and used as pawns in battles between two brothers in a very bad family. Meanwhile the adults just continue to erode their already tenuous marriages with pity and blame and then randomly abuse the local authorities, as one does. There is also a tertiary story about a little girl trying to make it to her parents in the US and how she intersects with these characters which, frankly, I would rather have read an entire book about. She never once whined because she was hungry and did not like the bananas that were being offered to her.
There is tension and some anxiety but for me there was a lot of annoyance too. Honestly, you have to try pretty hard to make a 9 year old so irritating that I’m rooting for her kidnappers, but success! The privilege and disbelief that ANYTHING bad can happen to an (American) child is a bit over the top and – spoiler alert – nothing that terrible happens to anyone who happens to be white in this story. The story is well written but it just fell apart for me somewhere and I walked away thinking wow, not one person learned one thing in this book. Literally.
Do Not Become Alarmed – Grade C+