Joey has already survived one fire - the one that killed his mother barely a year ago. Now he and his friend Maureen have survived a fire at their high school that claimed the lives of everyone else in their history class including the teacher Mr. Austen. Since the two fourteen year olds were the only students in the classroom to survive, people in the community have decided to accuse them of starting the fire in the first place. The reasoning behind the accusation - how else would they have known that the fire alarm was not just a test.
That day the new fire alarm system was being tested. It started clanging before classes were even in session. Throughout the day the fire alarm would sound, and the principal would announce over the PA that it was just a test. Joey became more and more unnerved each time the alarm went off, until finally in history class, he snapped. Even though Mr. Austen threatened him with detention, Joey stood up and announced he was leaving the building. Everyone knew about his mother's tragic death, but only Maureen knew Joey well enough to recognize his panic. As they both left the classroom and the building, they accepted the fact they might be punished their disobedience. However, when they arrived outside to find the building was indeed on fire, their world changed forever.
ONE OF THE SURVIVORS by Susan Shaw is the story of Joey's life after the fire and his struggle to cope with the angry accusations of some in his community and to deal with his own private grief and guilt. Shaw uses a mix of Joey's personal journal entries and narrative accounts of the events surrounding the time leading up to and including the fire. Readers will witness the emotional turmoil Joey experiences as he relives his mother's death and the senseless deaths of his fellow classmates. Shaw's control of the events and the way she gradually reveals the facts create a riveting read.