Ten Rules (Flight 29 Down, #0) by Walter Sorrells

Ten Rules (Flight 29 Down, #0)Ten Rules by Walter Sorrells

My rating: ★★☆☆☆

In the mid-2000's, Discovery Kids aired a show called Flight 29 Down. It centered around a group of high school students whose trip to Palau got called off on account of... well, a plane crash that left them lost on an uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean for a month or two. The show's been called the kid's version of Lost, but that's a really nonsensical comparison considering that Lost was, you know, SFF. If we're stretching that far for comparisons, you might as well say Flight 29 Down was a Gilligan's Island knockoff.

Anywho. The main characters of Flight 29 Down were Lex Marin, the Annoying Younger Sibling played by Allen Alvarado; Nathan McHugh, the Rival to Daley's Type III Leader, played by Corbin Blue of High School Musical fame; Daley Marin, the aforementioned Leader played by Hallee Hirsh; Eric McGorrill, the Slacker played by Jeremy Kissner; Cody Jackson, the New Transfer Student from the Wrong Side of the Tracks played by Johnny Pacar; Taylor Hagan, The Ditz played by Lauren Storm, and Melissa Wu the Heart played by Kristy Wu.

What you may notice from the above is that the case is not entirely comprised of white people: Nathan's African American, Melissa's Asian American, and one of the other characters is (IIRC) also Asian American. Unfortunately, it seems that Walter Sorrells didn't notice.

Throughout the entire book, it becomes increasingly clear that Sorrells flat-out assumed that his protagonist, Nathan, was a "white" guy. The book is peppered with blink-and-you'll-miss-it references to Nathan "going white" when he's shocked, looking "pale" when he's anxious, and "turning red" when he's embarrassed. Now, I'd be willing to give Sorrells the benefit of the doubt with "pale" and "flushed", because Corbin Bleu is fairly light-skinned. But there's no way I'm letting "going white" skate by. I, for one, am mixed-race "white" and Hispanic (possibly also Native American); my skin's olive, making me at least a few shades lighter than Corbin, and there is no possible way someone with a skintone like mine or even darker to go "white". It cannot be done. Pale for olive is a slightly lighter tan with a green tinge. (Olive can, however, get very red when flushed.) Pale for neither my olive nor Corbin/Nathan's mocha is never going to be anything that could reasonably be described as "white" in the bloodless sense (though most people describe me as "white" in the racial sense).

Most amusing, of course, was when Nathan explicitly asks Jackson what it's like to be the only "white" kid going to a predominantly "black" school. Seriously? Nathan's the only shown "black" kid at the "white" school, but he doesn't even reference this? Just a "what's it like being a racial minority"?

Don't make assumptions about race, kids.

On the other hand, the plot of the book isn't terrible. The characters are all at least slightly OOC with added background details and character motivations that I don't remember being stated or even implied in canon (which might be my fault, as I haven't seen the show in about seven years), minor details contradict the series, and Sorrells clearly has no idea how sixteen-year-olds in general (and his characters in particular) actually speak. More annoying, however, is the extreme Adults Are Useless vibe. The two primary adult characters--Jackson's social services caseworker and the school's Headmaster--both make a point of pretending to want to help the kids in their care while explicitly threatening them (with imprisonment and expulsion, respectively). The only person who could reasonably be called an antagonist is Jackson's caseworker, who is actively trying to send him to juvenile detention because he's jealous. Holy fuck.

The other adult is supposed to be a helpful character, but he takes the idea of a helpful adult to absurd extremes, being described as a "hippie-dippy Headmaster" who preaches personal growth... while using the school's so-called honor code to try to force his students to confess to crimes they didn't commit. Not as bad as the other bloke, but still terrible.

Having said that, I definitely didn't enjoy this one, thanks in no small part to the portrayal of teachers and social service workers as well as the unintended racism, but it definitely wasn't terrible. Might be worth a read for anyone who enjoys or is feeling nostalgic for Flight 29 Down, so two stars it is!

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