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Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots

May 8, 2010

Boys, Bears and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
published by Candlewick April 13, 2010

Jenna drifted in her high school, not sure where she fit in, until she found her niche with Green Teen, a school-based environmental organization. She met her best friend Olivia there. Green Teen also offered an outlet for Jenna’s energy and tremendous organizational skills. Now things are going well — Jenna and Olivia have even arranged a summer internship with a conservation group.

Then Jenna learns that her parents are leaving for the summer. Her father is heading to Europe and Jenna and her mom will spend the summer with Grandma  in a Florida retirement community. Her parents say their separation  is temporary, but there is so much being unsaid, and Jenna is terrified of unraveling the truth of what’s going on in her parents’ marriage. And she doesn’t relish the prospect of spending the summer as the only person under 50 in her grandmother’s sterile, neatly groomed community.

When an opportunity arises to spend the summer with Susie, her godmother, in a small town in the Canada wilderness, Jenna jumps at it. However, when the extroverted New Jersey teen arrives, she finds that a handful of teens comprise the local social scene, and they aren’t particularly welcoming to a newcomer. This group includes Susie’s angry, sullen stepdaughter, Fiona, Ethan and Grady, who work in the local store, and Reeve, who seems inexplicably hostile to Jenna. On the periphery of this group, in a rural community where her environmental activism doesn’t seem to be welcome, Jenna once again finds herself adrift, seeking her niche.

I really liked this character, who is bright, passionate, funny and kind, and the things she said were sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. I loved her transition from an intense, sometimes overzealous girl, eager to be accepted, through new friendships and first love, to a mature, assertive young woman who understands the many shades of gray between her conservationist ideals and the necessities of real life. Jenna seemed thoroughly real to me. I found myself wishing the author had delved deeper into the lives of the other characters, including Fiona, who’s angrily mourning her parents’ divorce, Reeve, who’s helping his pregnant single mom, and Ethan, who is keeping secrets from his family. I wish I could have known these people a bit better. However, I thought they were fairly well drawn and easy to like.

The only place credibility broke down for me was in how quickly Jenna picked up most of the challenges of wilderness life, from starting an outdoor fire to navigating a kayak. For example, though I am not a kayaker, I know it takes practice and training. I wondered whether the author attempted all these things on her own before writing them into her story. On the other hand, Jenna’s first effort at rock climbing was realistically difficult. And the author described the rural Canadian environment with a light hand but vividly. I was able to become absorbed in the story and imagine myself in the forest or caught in the rain while hiking.

This is a funny, romantic coming of age story that preteens, teens and adults will all enjoy. It might also spark some interesting discussions about environmentalism, and how a person’s social and political convictions either intensify or are moderated over time.

I borrowed this ARC from Around the World Tours.

Read More Reviews: Write Meg; Bookalicious Ramblings; Pure Imagination; YA Librarian Tales; All Things Print; One Book at a Time


4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2010 4:03 pm

    I’m so jealous you read this! Glad you enjoyed it. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. :]

  2. May 9, 2010 1:59 am

    Kayaking does take a serious amount of practice and training.

    No slacking off in the boat!

    And staying in a “gated community”/”senior living” when you’re a teenager must be a challenge.

  3. May 9, 2010 3:08 pm

    Great review! I really enjoyed this book too! 😀


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