Desert Prisoner

By Andrea Abbott

(Tafelberg, R110)

When was the last time you read a story about a person who got lost in the desert? The prospect alone is enough to make you want to read on, just to see if the person will make it out alive, or at least have a mirage experience.

In Abbott’s story, 12-year-old Leo Knight is left in the desert, during a frantic escape from a sandstorm, by his group of star-gazing friends.

Then, almost immediately after that, the mirage comes. Only it is not a mirage, as half-hallucinating Leo initially believes. It is a dog – right in the middle of the Namib Desert – forcing Leo to make a difficult decision: wait for help; or follow the mongrel to what could be salvation.

The story takes place over a day. Although short, it is fast-paced and suspenseful.

Abbott was clever in realising the story could become tedious and monotonous if too much emphasis was placed on the desert landscape and Leo’s dire situation all the time. She counteracts this with plenty of twists and turns. This keeps you enthralled.

Ironically enough, the major drawback to this compounded story is the abounding coincidences that take place in the dry and morbid Namib.

The book falls in the young adult fiction category, so the targeted audience might not be too worried by these shortfalls. It is for young dreamers and out-of-the-box thinkers. – Tshepo Tshabalala