Peg Kehret

Escaping the Giant Wave

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Escaping the Giant Wave Summary

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Escaping the Giant Wave (2003) is a middle-grade disaster thriller by American author Peg Kehret. The story follows thirteen-year-old Kyle and his little sister, BeeBee, as they struggle to survive an earthquake, a fire, and a tsunami. While Kyle battles to save BeeBee and himself, he must learn to overcome his own fears. Kehret incorporates themes of courage and the importance of family into this action-packed novel.

Kyle, who has just finished sixth grade, begins his narration by describing his goals for the summer: learn to pop a wheelie on his bike, improve his batting average, get his parents to increase his allowance, and make Daren Hazelton leave him alone. Big and strong, Daren loves to pick a fight and has bullied Kyle since kindergarten. Since he is skinny and much smaller than Daren, Kyle avoids confrontation at all costs. Kyle prides himself for not telling anyone about the bullying, but lately, he’s felt like a coward.

Kyle lives in Kansas with his mother and father and eight-year-old sister, BeeBee, who is named after both her grandmothers, Bernice and Barbara. When Kyle’s parents couldn’t decide on one name, they combined the first letters of both, making BeeBee’s original name. Kyle thinks that it would fit his sister better if the two Bs stood for “Brainy and Bizarre.” BeeBee is obsessed with the stock market and making money: she named her stuffed bear Bill after billionaire Bill Gates and has dollar signs on her pjs.

When his father wins the Salesman of the Year award from the real estate firm he works for, Kyle is thrilled. The prize is an all-expense paid family trip to the Oregon coast. Kyle has never flown on a plane before or seen the Pacific Ocean and is excited to do both. When the family arrives, however, they find that the Frontier Lodge, the hotel they had planned to stay in, is still under construction, and they must stay in the older Totem Pole Inn across the street. Kyle discovers that Daren’s mother works for the same real estate company as his parents and has also won an award: she and Daren are staying at the same hotel.

During a family walk on the beach, BeeBee collects seashells to sell back home, and Kyle looks for shells and bits of wood to make a sea picture. The family notices a sign on the beach warning that they are in a tsunami area. Kyle’s father tells them in the event of a hurricane or tsunami, they should move inland and uphill as far as possible. Kyle reflects that in his home state of Kansas, natural disasters include tornadoes rather than tsunamis. Daren steps on Kyle’s sea picture and ruins it.

Trusting Kyle to babysit BeeBee while they attend an awards ceremony aboard the yacht, the Elegant Empress, his parents leave them alone at the hotel. They caution Kyle and BeeBee not to leave the room. An earthquake strikes the area, and Kyle remembers a report on tsunamis that he heard at school: big waves often strike the coastline after earthquakes. He worries whether to follow his father’s directions to stay in the room, or to leave the hotel and head for higher ground. The earthquake, however, ruptures a natural gas line, setting the hotel on fire. Kyle and BeeBee cover their faces with wet towels and flee the hotel. On their way out, Kyle trips over the body of Daren, sprawled in the hallway. Kyle drags Daren downstairs to safety. Kyle burns his hand on the hot door handle as he and BeeBee escape.

Daren thinks the hotel fire will spread to the forest, and they will be safer on the beach, near the water. He also tells Kyle that he would deny it if Kyle told anyone at school that he’d saved Daren’s life. Kyle cannot convince Daren to go uphill into the woods with him and BeeBee. Daren goes down to the water to watch for a tsunami. Kyle and BeeBee trek to the top of a mountain where they meet an elderly couple sitting on a bench. Norm and Josie, along with their dog, Pansy, go there when they hear a tsunami warning.

Down on the beach, a group of people is having a bonfire and counting down the time to 5:30, when a giant wave is predicted to hit. It has been fifteen years since the last tsunami, and the locals have started ignoring the warnings because so many have been false alarms. Daren finally realizes his danger when someone shouts that a killer wave is coming. He runs, and a wave swallows up the people on the beach.

On the hillside, Norm suggests that Kyle and BeeBee spend the night in their home until the danger is past. They will give BeeBee their son’s old stuffed bear since Bill perished in the fire. Norm urges them to go farther inland in case there is a larger second wave. They begin to run, but Norm and Josie stop, too tired to run farther. Kyle and BeeBee continue on, taking shelter behind a tree. Pansy finds them in the night and the two hold Pansy between them to keep the dog safe during the second tsunami wave.

Kyle and BeeBee head down the mountain after the tsunami, and Pansy finds Josie’s handkerchief. They see Daren in an emergency tent. He had been caught up by the first wave and dropped on top of the hotel’s elevator shaft, where he remained safe for the rest of the tsunami. They also see Norm. He describes how he and Josie climbed a tree, but Josie could not hold on and was swept away. Kyle and BeeBee reunite with their parents, who safely rode out the tsunami onboard the yacht.

Kyle realizes that he no longer fears Daren: the bully has lost his power over him. Kyle achieves two of his summer goals: his parents increase his allowance, and Daren leaves him alone.