Sarah's Stars

Abby McDonald. Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots
Candlewick Press $16.99 ISBN 978-0-7636-4382-9 304 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 16

Sooner than I imagined, life in Stillwater becomes almost routine. My mom calls every few days to check on me, Olivia texts me her latest camp – and Cash – updates, Fiona keeps up her icy demeanor, and I settle into a lazy schedule of sunbathing and helping Susie out with B and B projects. The hours start to drift in that sleepy, summer way, where an afternoon sprawled out reading in the shade of the backyard trees slips past in no time at all. Adam digs me out one of their rusted bicycles, and I start cycling the wide, dirt road into town most days, stopping by the gas station for Popsicles and hanging out with Ethan at the hardware store.

But I can’t stop thinking about Reeve.

Jenna is a project person. Whether it’s helping out the Green Teens at school by leading a protest to save a school field, passing out campaign letters, or sweet-talking the principal, she’s always on the go, figuring out ways to help. She’s especially stoked for the upcoming summer; what could be better than day after day of letter writing and poster-making? But all of that changes when her dad leaves to work abroad, and her mom decides to spend the summer cruising through department stores with her grandmother. Instead of trailing through every Macy’s and Target within a 200-mile radius, Jenna jets off to live with her godmother, Susie, and her new woodsy husband, in a rural town in British Columbia for the summer. All maple syrup and “eh!” jokes aside, Jenna’s time in Canada is turning out to be more than she bargained for. Never mind the fact that the nearest eco-friendly, vegetarian and organic store is two hours away! Susie’s nasty step-daughter Fiona is out to get her, gigantic moose block the roads and three hot brothers by the names of Ethan, Grady and Reeve seem determined to make Jenna look like a fool. But, armed with a wilderness survival guide and a sturdy pair of hiking boots, Jenna might just have a fabulous summer after all.

I really quite enjoyed this book. It struck a perfect balance between mindless summer literature and genuine heart. The characters were well played-out, the wilderness adventures were exciting and funny, and for a breezy beach read, it actually didn’t have a plot I could see coming from a mile away. One aspect of the book that I liked was the fact that it was set mere hours away from where I’ve lived my entire life, and it was interesting to see an outsider’s perspective on my home. In fact, many of the adventures Jenna goes on are adventures I’ve been on myself back when I was younger, or during summer vacation. Abby McDonald is a great writer, with the ability to paint pictures with her writing, and the relationships between her characters seemed real, not contrived. All of the little subplots involving Susie’s bed and breakfast, Jenna’s parents, and her relationships with Fiona and the boys kept me turning the pages, and the conclusion was open-ended, yet satisfying. For any girl over fourteen looking for a little bit of summer reading, I would definitely recommend this novel for its interesting plot turns, its believable characters and its ability to put the reader in a happy frame of mind. Definitely one of the better chick lit books I’ve read, and Abby McDonald has cemented her status as a writer to watch.

I give Abby McDonald’s Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots four out of five stars.


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