The ship Polaris is on a scientific mission in the 1830s to explore the Amazon. Most of the ship’s crew sets out on a scientific exploration of the jungle, with many of the 12 year old deckhands anxiously awaiting their return. Half the crew never returns, but those who survive manage to obtain a specimen from the jungle. The crew saw something frightening in the jungle that spooked them all, and there’s a strange sickness spreading on the boat.
After returning back to the ship, deck hand Obed Macy is sent to lock the specimen away deep within the ship. Knowing that something spooky is happening with the specimen, the crew wants it as far away from them as possible. While Obed is securing it far away below deck, the rest of the kids are locked in the captain’s quarters so they don’t see what happens next.
A mutiny takes place. The kids hear the yelling and fighting, and then sounds of the crew abandoning ship. Once the kids free themselves, they find that all the adults have fled the ship and have sailed away using a life boat. With no other boats for the kids to use, they must take control of Polaris and return it back to America.
As they start to sail, Obed still hasn’t shown up and there’s a weird, sweet fungus smell coming from below the deck. The group explores the dark, dank recesses of the ship looking for Obed. They learn quickly that there is something hideous on the ship with them.
The struggle to sail the boat with a skeleton crew of children is made harder because of the monster below deck that’s growing stronger every day. The kids will have to sail safely back to America while also trying to destroy the monster. They will have to come up with a plan sooner or later to destroy the monster before it destroys them.
Northrop has an amazing knack for pacing and suspense, and Polaris has both. Polaris is the perfect mix of fun, adventure, and horror that will keep readers hooked and spooked all throughout the book. Northrop clearly put a lot of time into researching the nuts and bolts of sailing a large ship like the Polaris, and it adds to the pacing and plot development. I would recommend this book for fans of horror books, including fans of Dan Poblocki and R. L. Stine. (Stine’s recommendation of this book is even on the cover!)
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