79 pages 2 hours read

Alan Gratz

Two Degrees

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2022

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Summary and Study Guide


Two Degrees by American author Alan Gratz is a thriller for young readers set in the contemporary world of climate-change related disasters. Gratz is well-known for his survival and adventure stories that take place in modern settings. His previous books include Ground Zero, about a young boy’s survival story during the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, and Refugee, which tells the stories of young escapees from Nazi Germany, 1990s Cuba, and 21st-century Syria. Like many of Gratz’s books, Two Degrees was an immediate success upon publication in 2022, reaching the #1 spot on The New York Times bestseller list.

Content Warning: This book includes detailed descriptions of drowned and burned bodies.

Plot Summary

Two Degrees is split into three different storylines, all taking place simultaneously. The first six sections occur over a single October day, while the seventh section takes place several months later.

The first storyline follows Akira Kristiansen, a Japanese Norwegian American teenager who lives in a rural valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. She and her father Lars are taking a weekend horseback ride to see the Monarchs, a grove of ancient sequoia trees near their house. Their initial ride establishes that Akira is very concerned about wildfires, while Lars sees them as a natural part of the forest ecosystem and does not believe that climate change has made them worse. Akira and Lars meet Daniel and Sue in the sequoia grove. They recently moved to California from Churchill, Manitoba, where the second storyline takes place. The story escalates quickly as a small patch of smoke that Akira and Lars had seen earlier becomes the gigantic Morris Fire. Separated from their fathers almost immediately, Sue and Akira have to make their way to safety on foot as the fire laps at their heels. Later, the duo finds Akira’s horse, Dodger. Sue gets a ride to the hospital from a passerby, but Akira stays with her horse to get both of them off the mountain and find her family at their house. She narrowly escapes the fire several times, and eventually allows Dodger’s horse sense to guide herself, her parents, and her younger sister to a lake where a helicopter sees and rescues them.

Meanwhile, in Churchill, Manitoba, best friends Owen and George are excited to visit George’s family cabin after a long week of giving polar bear tours to tourists. They happily set out by snowmobile, but, when they stop for a break and Owen forgets all of their bear deterrents on the snowmobile, they find themselves in between a mother bear and its cub and are brutally mauled. Another bear begins to pursue them, and later destroys the snowmobile and causes it to sink in a frozen lake. On foot, they travel first to the roof of a tiny cabin where two hungry male bears lie in wait, and later to the edge of Churchill where they trap themselves inside a bear trap to escape from the hungry bear. As they travel, the boys reform their lifelong bond that had begun to fray at the beginning of the story and discover firsthand how climate change is affecting the Arctic landscape and animals. They begin to see the bears as Inuit do: as intelligent fellow beings and skilled hunters who, just like them, are trying to survive. Eventually, they are rescued by a Department of Natural Resources team with a tranquilizer gun, but before the stalking bear falls asleep, they bravely rescue him from falling beneath thin ice and drowning.

The third story takes place in Miami, Florida, during a Category 5 hurricane that destroys almost the entire city. A teenager named Natalie is separated from her mom and neighbor and must fight for survival in the floodwater and wind alongside the neighbor’s angry chihuahua, Churro. She finds dry areas and other people several times but is continuously separated by the force of the storm until she lands in Patience’s apartment. Patience, who knows Akira from spending several years as her sister’s babysitter, is an activist. After the hurricane ends, the pair kayak to a food bank run by Patience and her friends and begin to hand out food and essentials to hundreds of people displaced by the storm. When the media comes to interview them, Natalie realizes that she needs to commit herself to the climate justice cause, especially after she finds out that her elderly neighbor was killed by the storm. With Patience’s help, she organizes a kids’ climate rally that becomes the basis for the final section of the novel.

In Part 7, all the primary characters meet at Natalie’s rally. They give speeches, and they realize that they are all connected in some way. Akira knows Patience, Sue knows Owen and George, and the boys know the Miami meteorologist who interviewed Natalie, and who travels to Churchill each year to make stories about climate change. After surviving climate crises firsthand, all main characters commit themselves to fighting for a better future for the planet.