172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

One thing I really love about the Young Adult books that are being published at the moment is the amount of great science fiction stories.  Whether it’s the paranormal, like Andrew Hammond’s CRYPT series and Will Hill’s Department 19 or set in outer space, like Beth Revis’ Across the Universe and Philip Webb’s Six Days, these stories grab me and don’t let me go until the very last page.  Johan Harstad’s new book, 172 Hours on the Moon is one of these stories.

Set in 2019, it’s the story of 3 lucky teenagers who are chosen from millions of others around the world to be the first teenagers to travel to the moon.  A worldwide lottery is announced to find the 3 teenagers and it’s Mia from Norway, Antoine from France, and Midori from Japan who are chosen for this once in a lifetime experience.  In the first few chapters we find out who they are and what their life is like in their countries.  Each of them want to escape their lives and the moon mission gives them that chance.  They know that once they return from the moon, they will live very different lives.  Before they leave for their training, each of them experience some strange events that make them questions whether they should be going to the moon.  After their weeks of training they say goodbye to their families and leave for the moon.  You know that things are going to go wrong and sure enough, they do.  From the moment they land on the moon a series of strange events occur, and soon they find themselves fighting for their lives, millions of miles from home.

172 Hours on the Moon had me hooked from the blurb ‘Three of them will go on the trip of a lifetime.  Only one will come back.’  Johan’s story was originally published in his native Norwegian and Tara F. Chace has translated it well, capturing the fear and claustrophobia of the moon perfectly.  You know as soon as you start the story that everything is going to go horribly wrong, but you have to find out how and why.  The suspense keeps you reading and I found it really difficult to put the book down even to make a cup of tea.  The teenage characters were very real and I was really hoping they’d make it home (even though I just knew they wouldn’t).  I loved the way the author held back certain details about the true nature of the mission and revealed these slowly throughout the story.  One of the adult characters would reveal some details, but wouldn’t tell the teenagers the whole truth, which makes you keep reading to find out the truth.  Johan ends the story with a punch to your guts and leaves you catching your breath, marveling at the story you’ve just read.

4 out of 5 stars

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