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About The Book

In this “poignant” (Publishers Weekly), riveting middle grade novel that’s “a ‘Hatchet and Gretel story’” (Booklist), two unlikely friends fly off on an adventure they hope will set them freeonly to learn the value of what they left behind.

Gerty has a secret: She’s building an airplane. She wants to join the Civil Air Patrol, where pilots as young as twelve help with disaster relief—but she knows her parents would be outraged. They’re survivalists who raised her to be independent and only enrolled her in middle school to show her why they’ve decided to opt out of society. Still, Gerty is determined to protect her beloved Pando, a nearby ancient aspen forest.

Hayes has some problems of his own, but they aren’t the kind that can be hidden under a tarp. His mom is back from prison, but he’s not sure he’ll ever stop missing the mom she used to be. One thing is certain: He’s never going to be like her. He follows the rules. But Gerty is the only person at school Hayes doesn’t hate, so after she tells him about her hidden plane, he helps her finish it.

When wildfires break out nearby, Gerty wants to fly to Pando and make sure it’s safe—and Hayes is tempted by the chance to escape everything on the ground. But the duo will soon realize that they can’t escape their roots—and that holding onto those connections might be the real key to survival.

About The Author

Photograph © Beth Vrabel

Beth Vrabel is the award-winning author of more than a dozen middle grade novels, including To Tell You the TruthLies I Tell Myself, When Giants Burn, and Perry Homer Ruins Everything. She lives in Canton, Connecticut, with her family. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (June 13, 2023)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665918633
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Raves and Reviews

"Vrabel spins a poignant love letter to friendship and a harrowing survival tale in this gripping read."

– Publishers Weekly

"A heartwarming read with a powerful message: The lonely and jaded can heal with the love of an empathetic friend."

– Kirkus Reviews

"Readers will be swept along by the intense plot."

– Booklist

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