Now in paperback!

Awards & Lists!

  • Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection!
  • Winner of the Whitney Award for best debut novel
  • Winner of the AML award for best middle grade novel
  • Junior Tome Society “It List” 2021-2022!
  • Finalist for the Reading the West Book Award
  • South Carolina Junior Book Award list 2021-2022!
  • Oklahoma Library Association’s Sequoyah Masterlist 2022!
  • Kansas National Education Association Recommended Book!
  • Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Award nomination for 2021-2022!
  • Maine Student Book Award nominee 2021-2022!
  • Nevada Young Readers’ Award nominee 2022!
  • Idaho Battle of the Books Selection 2021-2022
  • Mississippi Magnolia Book Award nominee 2022
  • South Dakota Teen Choice Book Award nominee 2021-2022
  • Indiana Young Hoosier Book Award nominee 2022-2023
  • William Allen White Book Award Selection 2022-2023
  • Louisiana Young Reader Award nominee 2022-2023
  • Missouri Truman Readers Award nominee 2022-2023
  • Georgia Children’s Book Award finalist 2023
  • Connecticut Nutmeg Book Award nominee 2022-2023
  • Minnesota Maud Hart Lovelace Award nominee 2022-2023
  • Winner of the Mississippi Magnolia Book Award, 2022!
  • Winner of the Nevada Young Reader Award 2022!

Blurbs & Praise!

“A suspense thriller, survival story, and–most importantly–a story of the love between brothers. You’ll turn the pages–and be surprised again and again.” –Gary D. Schmidt, Newberry Honor Award-winning author of The Wednesday Wars. 

“Fast-paced, believable, funny, and poignant. A great read from the first sentence to the surprising and satisfying ending. I give Esplin’s debut novel 100 percent. Don’t miss it!”    –Roland Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Peak

“Filled with survival techniques, danger, and overcoming realistic obstacles, this story will have readers turning pages. … VERDICT Rough and rugged, this story will have readers eagerly awaiting what’s next for John and Stew. A great addition to any middle or high school collection where survival books circulate well.” (School Library Journal)

“For readers thirsting for a fresh survival story.” (Kirkus)

“Debut novelist Esplin deftly creates a compelling uncertainty through the increasingly dire circumstances that her characters face. The story never drags, due to both the authentic survival tips she sprinkles in—yucca root as a natural detergent—and John’s detailed narration, which lets the reader experience this arduous and tension-filled journey firsthand. More than just a harrowing survival story, Esplin offers a richly layered look at the frustrations of sibling rivalry, the depths of family loyalty, and the challenges of forgiveness.” (Publishers Weekly)

96 Miles by J.L. Esplin

For fans of Gary Paulsen’s classic Hatchet and Lauren Tarshis’s bestselling I Survived series, J. L. Esplin’s 96 Miles is a story of survival and desperation as two young brothers confront the worst in humanity—and themselves.

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Dad always said if things get desperate, it’s okay to drink the water in the toilet. I never thought it would come to that. I thought I’d sooner die than let one drop of toilet water touch my lips. Yet here I am, kneeling before a porcelain throne, holding a tin mug for scooping in one hand, and my half-gallon canteen in the other.

The Lockwood brothers are supposed to be able to survive anything. Their dad, a hardcore believer in self-reliance, has stockpiled enough food and water at their isolated Nevada home to last for months. But when they are robbed of all their supplies during a massive blackout while their dad is out of town, John and Stew must walk 96 miles in the stark desert sun to get help. Along the way, they’re forced to question their dad’s insistence on self-reliance and ask just what it is that we owe to our neighbors, our kin, and to ourselves.

From talented newcomer J. L. Esplin comes this story of survival and determination as two young brothers confront the unpredictability of human nature in the face of desperate circumstances.

Purchase links:

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