Running Wild

Holiday House//Margaret Ferguson Bks. Sept. 2019. 208p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780823443635.
Gr 5-8–Combining elements of survivalism, resilience in the face of adversity, and adaptation to the unknown, Bledsoe skillfully weaves a tale of adventure and coming of age on the Alaskan frontier. After their recovering alcoholic father moves them to the middle of nowhere following their mother’s death, Willa and her twin younger brothers must learn to hunt, fish, ration, and simply exist in a terrain that neither suits them nor wants them. Her dad falls off the wagon, and Willa must put her own education on hold to cook, clean, and pick up the pieces, literally and figuratively, of his addiction. Finally, she reaches her limit and convinces the twins to run away with her. What ensues is a chase through the wilderness. Readers must suspend their disbelief at some of the plot twists. Despite these moments, Bledsoe makes Willa a likable, relatable, and strong lead who will appeal to readers of a similar age. Much like Ruthie of Bledsoe’s short story “Rough Touch,” this novel will have readers rooting for Willa and her brothers on their adventure.
VERDICT With a plot and character traits akin to Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, this would be an excellent addition to middle grade libraries.

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