Recommended for ages 14 and up
This is another selection from Canadian publisher James Lorimer & Company’s line for reluctant and struggling readers. The publisher’s ability to find and champion interesting, relevant realistic fiction that speaks to teens and the issues facing them these days is huge, and Lorimer has managed to find authors that provide diverse backgrounds, viewpoints, and situations that will speak to teens.
Told in alternating third-person narratives, Gone Wild is the story of two teens who head to a wilderness park on Vancouver Island to work out the problems they each have going on. Seth is a teen who was bullied by his half-brother until he went to foster care; he was adopted, but his parents have split, leaving him open to verbal abuse by his mother and psychological bullying by his mother’s boyfriend. Fed up with it all, he storms out and finds himself on the trail.
Brooke’s a high school with a control freak mother, who never lets her feel like she measures up to Brooke’s older sister. When Brooke thinks she may be pregnant, she grabs her gear – she loves outdoor sports and hiking – and heads for the trail, to clear her head and work things out.
Eventually, the two teens meet and work together to get through the wilderness, to figure out the directions their lives are going, and to find the strength to take control back for themselves.
This was a good, quick read. The characters were well-developed and faced some big topics: life-changing topics. We’re dealing with teenage pregnancy, abuse, and adoption, for starters, so more conservative readers may shy away from this book. For teens who are living with their own struggles, though, the idea of finding a way to clear your head and walk it out may be soothing, a real help. You don’t have to find a hiking trail; urban kids can find a quiet place in a park, or work it out on the basketball court or track, for instance; it’s the idea of finding a constructive way to work through life and the curveballs it throws at us.
Because this is a book aimed at reluctant and struggling readers, the text gets to the point quickly and is matter-of-fact in its discussion. All readers will appreciate the candor that Jodi Lundgren uses to tell her story.
A good addition to realistic fiction collections, especially where grittier subjects find readers.