by Joanne Bell
Orca Book Publishers, 2009
$12.95, 171 pp, ages 12+
Sixteen-year-old Rachel and her dog Brooks have prepared to hike many miles to the remote cabin that was her early childhood home before she and her family moved closer to town. The cabin is also the last place that her father was known to have been before he disappeared ten years ago. Rachel is certain that he is still alive and well somewhere in the Yukon wilderness and she is determined to find him, with neither her mother’s concerns for her safety nor the distinct possibility of running into a grizzly bear dissuading her from making the journey.
Rachel has packed food and supplies for both herself and Brooks, but she also carries the memories of her father, her ability to reinvent the fairy tales of her childhood, and her skill at juggling. As she travels on foot across the tundra and through the forest, those memories keep her going forward and her fairy tales and juggling help her stay calm, both of which become vital when she begins to regularly encounter a golden bear. After a violent confrontation with the bear that leaves Brooks seriously injured, Rachel must decide between turning back and continuing forward, relying on her survival skills and conquering her fears.
Joanne Bell tells the story through Rachel’s eyes in the wilds of the Yukon, Rachel’s memories of her father, and the fairy tales that she weaves throughout her time in the wilderness. Rachel is a strong protagonist who travels not only a physical journey but a subtly rendered emotional transformation as well, toying with the “happily ever after” ending she yearns for through her fairy tales and gradually coming to terms with her father’s disappearance. While the novel has neither a precise sense of time nor place, it is reflective of Rachel’s feelings of loss, and the author’s own experiences in the northern wilderness come through as she effectively portrays a powerful respect for nature and the magic and danger it holds. This novel is a welcome and complex addition to the wilderness survival genre and holds appeal for both male and female young adults.
Review by Rebecca Bartlett.
This review is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2011 issue.