Although Mr. BFR reads across a wide variety of genres (and
audiences), he recently finished three books that feature adolescent
boys in the great outdoors. He had so many good things to say about
these novels, he agreed to let me paraphrase his thoughts about each one
and then share his (brief) collective thoughts.
Clare Vanderpool's Navigating Early is set in Maine in the late 1940s. Mr. BFR noted that this a unique coming-of-age story in that the protagonist is a boy who is an autistic savant at a time when such diagnoses were not part of the general vocabulary. Mr. BFR is not the only one who loved this novel -- it is a multiple award winner (the Indie Bound website lists 11 awards for Navigating Early).
When Jack Baker’s father sends him from his home in Kansas to attend a boys’ boarding school in Maine, Jack doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not Early Auden, the strangest of boys. Early keeps to himself, reads the number pi as a story, and refuses to accept truths others take for granted. Jack, feeling lonely and out of place, connects with Early, and the two become friends.--Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013 (ISBN: 9780385742092); ages 9-12
During a break from school, the boys set out for the Appalachian Trail on a quest for a great black bear. As Jack and Early travel deeper into the mountains, they meet peculiar and dangerous characters, and they make some shocking discoveries. But their adventure is only just beginning. Will Jack’s and Early’s friendship last the journey? Can the boys make it home alive?
Mr. BFR picked up Nick Cutter's The Troop because it was supposed to be a good horror story. Although he didn't think the book was all that scary, he was particularly impressed with Cutter's ability to re-create the way young boys think. This novel is set in modern times and involves a Boy Scout trip that goes horribly wrong.
Once a year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip--a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite--shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry--Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. A horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival with no escape from the elements, the infected . . . or each other. Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later--and all-consuming--this tightly written edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity . . . and terror hungers for more.--Gallery Books, 2014 (ISBN: 9781476717715); adults
Cory Wheeler Mimms set his Tailing Tennessee on the southern sections of the Appalachian Trail. Mr. BFR loved the realistic descriptions of life on the trail and of the beauty of the eastern mountains and wilderness. Although written for a young audience, the themes have a broad appeal: working through grief, discovering self-reliance, connecting to nature, and fulfilling a family tradition as a means of finding closure.
Winner of: PubWest Book Design Award Trailing Tennessee is a novel about a teen's journey on the Appalachian Trail. Eli Sutton isn't your typical runaway. When tragedy befalls his family, he sets out on the Appalachian Trail, determined to follow in his father's and grandfather's footsteps. With forest rangers close on his heels and his supplies running low, Eli soon discovers hiking through the Appalachian Mountains isn't nearly as forgiving as trekking through the woods behind his home. He fights blisters, hunger, rain, and pain. But worst of all, he faces his own self-doubt and fear. The ghosts of his father and grandfather, and the spirits of the woods lurk in his mind. When Eli joins up with a group of young hikers in Virginia, his goal begins to slip further away. With his obstacles surmounting, there may not be enough trail magic to save him.--Craigmore Creations, 2013 (ISBN: 9781940052007); ages 10+
General thoughts from Mr. BFR: As a whole, these novels captured the way young boys think and act. They offer a perspective on how screwed up grown-ups can be, especially from an adolescent's viewpoint. Finally, these books give kids due credit for being able to cope with life's burdens and difficult circumstances.