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Thin Air


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Year Published

Book Review

The Paris trip is a chance of a lifetime for Emily Walters, where she and 11 other students are going to compete for a full Ivy League scholarship. But first they must survive the eight-hour flight.

Plot Summary

Emily Walters is smart, personable and attractive. But despite her boarding school address, she’s far from rich. It’s quite the opposite, actually. She can only stay in school thanks to some hefty scholarship help.

She needs that help more than ever now, thanks to her single mom’s reckless financial choices. In fact, they recently lost their house to foreclosure. So even the relatively small school bill that her regular scholarship doesn’t cover is now unpaid. And the future looks bleak.

But a new opportunity just came Emily’s way.

She’s one of a dozen boarding-school students from across the country who have been selected for a special competition by the Bonhomme Foundation, a wealthy international organization. So this summer break, instead of living and sweating with her mom in their overpacked Subaru Outback, she’ll be winging off to Paris and a chance at a full scholarship to an Ivy League school of her choice.

It’s an absolutely incredible opportunity. And not only do the competitions take place in opulent accommodations, but the students also fly there on the most luxurious Gulfstream you can imagine.

Frankly, Em should be beside herself with joy, and putting every brain cell she can muster into the task of winning the weeklong competition before her.

Problem is, Emily has something else dominating those brain cells: guilt. You see, she cheated to get in the competition. And she’s certain that she’ll be found out.

When the group of teens gather for their first interaction together—on the Gulfstream on the way to Paris—Emily believes her fears are already coming true. She gets a very clear message that someone knows that she cheated. In fact, it appears that someone knows the secrets of every student on the plane.

Is it the foundation? Another student? Who exactly is pulling strings behind the scenes?

But even that concern quickly takes a back seat when a student with a peanut allergy is poisoned and almost dies.

This flight isn’t shaping up to be the laid back, luxury trip that Emily imagined. And it’s only just beginning.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

We never meet either of Emily’s parents, but she tells us about them. Her father left the family when she was just a kid and eventually became something of a deadbeat dad. She never hears from him, and he stooped supporting her and her mom. Her mom, meanwhile, has her own issues. Her choices leave her and Emily penniless. And it’s only through Emily’s action that they they’re able to seek help from extended family members.

We also don’t directly meet Emily’s best friend, Nikki. But we do hear how Nikki sacrifices to care for her own cancer-ridden mom. We also learn that Emily betrayed Nikki’s trust—something that Emily later admits to and apologizes for. In fact, Emily publicly admits to all her misdeeds.

Without giving too much away, I’ll also say that there is one trusted adult who is later revealed to be a deceptive individual set on revenge and, ultimately, murder.

Profanity & Violence

There are a couple uses of the words “h—” and “freaking.”

Early on, the students’ worst secrets are revealed (though most of them deny the veracity of them). That list includes an eating disorder, drug addiction, sexual promiscuity, theft, jail time, contributing to someone’s death, and different forms of physical and emotional abuse.

One distraught student commits suicide–slashing her own wrists. Another is drugged and then has his throat slashed to bleed out. Another student is stabbed and a fourth is choked and left for dead. Several of the teens are also battered about and one is knocked out cold with a blow to the head. We learn of someone fashioning a deadly weapon out of epoxy.

Several people are injected with a drug that knocks them out. Emily discovers a bottle of Ambien that someone hid in her bag.

One teen with a food allergy is purposely poisoned and almost dies before being saved with an epinephrine shot.

Sexual Content

Em has a long-standing crush on a guy who’s dating her bestie, Nikki. But when he kisses her (and later reveals that he’s been cheating with someone else as well), Emily is angry at herself for letting the kiss happen. She later grows close to another guy. They kiss.

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Additional Comments

Thin Air has a Hunger Games-like feel in its mix, with 12 teens must compete against each other, form alliances, and struggle to stay alive during an eight-hour flight. That struggle draws readers into a tense and, at times, bloody murder mystery.

That said, this is an involving tale that also focuses on heroic choices and self-sacrificial actions on the part of the teens. There’s a bit of romance in the story narrative.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose