If you’re looking for a pure adrenaline read, Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy will definitely fit the bill. This summer novel book falls squarely into the Parent’s Worst Nightmare category of books, so be aware of what you’re getting yourself into if you pick it up.
Liv and Nora, two cousins living in LA, decide to go on a holiday cruise in Central America with their kids and families. They are very close, and their kids, who are roughly the same ages, are comfortable with and used to being together. While on the cruise, they befriend another couple from Argentina who have a teenage son and daughter.
After a few days of uneventful cruising, the three families decide to go onshore. The dads go off to play golf, while the moms and kids join a local guide who is to take them to a ropes course. It is at that point when things go off the tracks. The van going to the ropes course gets a flat tire, stranding them on a secluded road next to a beach. What happens next leads to all 6 kids being separated from their parents, whose nightmare has just started.
Needless to say, it’s a stressful read. It isn’t a mystery – the reader knows where the kids are the whole time – but the question of whether all the kids will safely find their way back to their parents looms over the whole book. The fact that one is diabetic and needs constant monitoring and insulin shots ratchets up the stress that much more.
Along the way, Meloy also explores the relationship between the two couples (and specifically the two moms), and the way they handle the situation vs the Argentine couple. There are a lot of parents trying to protect their kids throughout the book, but the American families have a lot more power than the non-American ones and enjoy a lot more leeway and support than the others.
Do Not Become Alarmed has gotten a lot of attention this summer, and I can see why. It’s well-written and totally engrossing. As for whether it’s enjoyable too, that’s another issue. Like most readers, I assume, I put myself in these parents’ shoes during the whole book and felt sick about the situation. So while I tore through the book, I was pretty anxious the whole time. There are also a few places where the plot verges on the unrealistic, which detracted from the overall novel.
If this sounds like your kind of read, go pick it up. You won’t be disappointed. If it sounds really unpleasant, then skip it.