CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 4. . . .September 25, 2009
When her dad accepted a job at a nuclear plant four years earlier, Stephanie Rawls, now 14, reluctantly moved from the city and learned to adjust to small town life. Sadly, her father died in an auto accident a year-and-a-half ago, and Steph has been grieving since. Mom has a new boyfriend, Gregg, who arrived on the scene while Steph spent three months up north getting to know her paternal grandfather. Steph resents Gregg’s presence in their lives and admits to being angry with her mother. To add to her frustration, “For the past two months, everyone in every small town up here had been freaking out because of the two girls who had disappeared,” one found “not alive,” the other still missing. Parents cautioned their daughters to take extra precautions, but Steph feels reasonably safe until the Saturday evening she is “halfway across a field” on her way home from a shopping trip “when someone grab[s her] from behind.” The assailant chokes her and jabs her with a needle. Steph awakens groggily in a small, grimy cabin, wrists behind her back hogtied to her bound ankles.
Getting the panic under control, Steph resolves to fight back and manages to break free of the ropes, gathers what meager supplies she finds in the cabin, and flees the scene, fearful that the kidnapper might return at any moment. Her grandfather’s wilderness survival lessons had taught her the importance of orientation before setting out through the densely wooded terrain toward a distant glow. She finds shelter for the night and the next morning, hungry and thirsty, takes stock of her situation. While checking her arm for the puncture mark, she finds a length of broken gold chain caught in her jacket - evidence. Using the sun as a compass, Steph keeps moving, looking for food and water, with limited success. Morning dew slakes her thirst, and wilderness spaghetti, the inner bark of trees, provides some nourishment. However, before long she resorts to eating grubs to keep up her strength. A rain storm solves her water needs but leaves her cold, wet, and feverish.
Award-winning novelist McClintock adds another well-paced tale for adolescent readers to her impressive collection. The first person narrative allows the reader to share Steph’s emotions as she faces challenges and demonstrates remarkable resolve and competence. Although the secondary characters tend to be one dimensional and formulaic, they appropriately advance the plot. McClintock provides specific and detailed description of the survival techniques Steph practices on her flight through the woods, ranging from her creating a plan, assembling a kit of supplies, finding directions without a compass, navigating, foraging for food and water, to her selecting appropriate shelter sites. Partly a mystery and partly a manual on wilderness survival, the action-driven tale manages to incorporate problems not uncommon to teens - moving to a new town and adjusting, losing a parent, conflict with the surviving parent and her new partner, self-doubt, and angst. A story about an engaging and smart protagonist facing seemingly insurmountable odds and surviving should appeal to early teen readers accustomed to tidy television-style adventures neatly packaged and resolved.
A former high school teacher-librarian, Darleen Golke writes from her home in Abbotsford, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.