Summary and book reviews of Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become Alarmed

by Maile Meloy

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy X
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2017, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2018, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

From a beloved, award-winning writer, the much-anticipated novel about what happens when two families go on a tropical vacation - and the children go missing.

When Liv and Nora decide to take their families on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite. The children - two eleven-year-olds, an eight-year-old, and a six-year-old—love the nonstop buffet and the independence they have at the Kids' Club. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor misfortunes leads the families farther and farther from the ship's safety. One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.

What follows is a riveting, revealing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the once-happy parents - now turning on one another and blaming themselves - try to recover their children and their lives.

Celebrated for her ability to write vivid, spare, moving fiction, Maile Meloy shows how quickly the life we count on can fall away, and how a crisis changes everyone's priorities. The fast-paced, gripping plot of Do Not Become Alarmed carries with it an insightful, provocative examination of privilege, race, guilt, envy, the dilemmas of modern parenthood, and the challenge of living up to our own expectations.

Chapter 7

The kids were engrossed in a complicated game with the three inner tubes, making a kind of raft that they could stand on. It required a great deal of concentration. Hector was the master of the game, and he kept everyone involved. He didn't leave Sebastian and June out, or cut them any slack just because they were little. Penny admired that in him.

He tossed his wet hair off his face. If Hector had been in a band, Penny's friends would have fainted over him. And he could be in a band. He played guitar that well.

He was good at building a structure, too, like her father was. He gave directions, saying, "Hold there. Now, Penny, you sit there. Okay, now you can stand up there. Now Penny, too." He kept the whole three-ring raft stable. She loved hearing him say her name. His stomach was tan and slick above his pink-and-green checked shorts.

Every few minutes, someone would slip or step in the wrong place and everyone would go crashing into the water, screaming with ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Do Not Become Alarmed is about a family that encounters sudden and unexpected danger. What do you think this says about the world around us, and about the way we perceive safety?
  2. There is also a global aspect to the book, as the disaster occurs while the families are traveling. How might our countries of origin affect our understanding of safety? As Americans, is there a sense that we live in a bubble, that we are sheltered from many harsh realities?
  3. The children in Do Not Become Alarmed vary in age—how do you think they each process the events of the novel, and to what extent does it change them? What do they learn?
  4. In turn, what does each parent learn by the end?
  5. The novel is about two families of longtime friends. How does ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Meloy, who has written well-regarded books for both adults and young readers, divides her narrative into short chapters written from a variety of adult and child characters. Virtually every member of the three families has a chapter from his or her point of view, and several other supporting characters also have their voices heard over the course of the novel. In lesser hands, this technique could have felt like a writing exercise or parlor game, but Meloy adeptly utilizes this strategy to broaden the reader's perspective, build suspense, and weave a densely textured narrative that, in many ways, mirrors the chaos and confusion engulfing nearly every character at one point or another.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review (675 words).

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Media Reviews

Vogue
A marital reboot becomes a zip line to disaster in Maile Meloy’s holiday cruise-set thriller Do Not Become Alarmed, in which the children’s moral complexity outstrips that of their parents.

Entertainment Weekly
[A] taut, nervy thriller…Meloy has a keenly intuitive ear for family dynamics, first-world privilege, and all the ways that human nature can adapt to the unthinkable.

Marie Claire
This summer’s undoubtable smash hit… an addictive, heart-palpitating story.

Elle
Our advice: Don’t read Maile Meloy’s new adrenaline-driven thriller of class, race, and disappeared children after dark… Do Not Become Alarmed will keep you up all night, compelled by the book’s twisty plot and seductive, tightly wound suspense.

Publishers Weekly
Though some of the circumstances seem piled on for the sake of melodrama and the adults' shoddy attempts to cope veer into soap opera territory, the story is nonetheless engrossing for all its nerve-racking twists and turns.

Booklist
Meloy's commanding, heart-revving, and thought-provoking novel has enormous power and appeal.

Library Journal
A taut, gripping thriller…[an] entertaining examination of privileged, modern families.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. This writer can apparently do it all - New Yorker stories, children's books, award-winning literary novels, and now, a tautly plotted and culturally savvy emotional thriller. Do not start this book after dinner or you will almost certainly be up all night.

Author Blurb Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth, State of Wonder, and Bel Canto
This is the book that every reader longs for: smart and thrilling and impossible to put down. Read it once at breakneck speed to find out what happens next, and then read it slowly to marvel at the perfect prose and the masterwork of a plot. It is an alarmingly good novel.

Author Blurb Helen Fielding, author of Bridget Jones's Diary
Here is that perfect combination of a luminous writer and a big, page-turning story. This hugely suspenseful novel will speak to anyone who has ever felt responsible for keeping a loved one safe, whether it was a child, a partner, a parent, or a friend. Meloy's characters - the adults and the children - feel to me like real, living people I'll never forget.

Reader Reviews

Michael Haughton

Do Not Become Alarmed
It all began with a cruise on a ship out in the wild seas. This family decided to make good on having a good time on a cruise. The writer made it clear from the beginning and so readers knew that from this came various scenes and misfortune. Here ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Cruise Ship Catastrophes

The disaster at the heart of Do Not Become Alarmed unfolds while the characters are on a shore excursion, but certainly some of the more notorious cruise ship disasters have taken place on the ships themselves. Some cruise ship voyages are truly tragic, such as the Costa Concordia ship that ran aground in the Mediterranean, killing thirty-two (and don't forget the Titanic!). Here are just a few other notable cruise ship catastrophes that may make you stick to dry land for your next vacation:

Norwegian Dawn: While en route to the Bahamas in 2005, this cruise ship was struck with a seven-story-high wave that broke windows, flooded more than sixty cabins, and injured several passengers.

Seabourn Spirits: In 2005, pirates off the coast of...

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