Wilder Boys

240p. S. & S./Aladdin. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781481432641.
Gr 5–8—A fresh take on the classic theme of youngsters escaping adult strictures to strike out on their own and live off the land. Thirteen-year-old Jake Wilder and his 11-year-old brother Taylor hate and fear their mother's vicious, abusive boyfriend, Bull. Their fears are heightened when, in quick succession, they witness Bull shooting another man and their mother being taken away on a gurney after suffering a beating. The boys grab a bundle of cash Bull had hidden and set off from their home in Pennsylvania to reconnect with their father, who abandoned them years before to live off the grid in Wyoming. With their loyal dog Cody in tow, the boys hop a freight train, hitch a ride with a sympathetic trucker, stow away in the luggage compartment of a bus, and start hiking in the vicinity of the Grand Tetons, with only their father's enigmatic directions to guide them. During the course of their adventures, they rescue a rough-hewn naturalist named Skeet, who takes them in and teaches them survival skills. Though this work is chock-full of action, the style is pedestrian and the ending both abrupt and contrived. Appended is an illustrated list of "Wilderness Tips."
VERDICT Despite the lackluster writing and inauthentic conclusion, this book contains enough action, adventure, and outdoor lore to appeal to middle grade fans of Wills Hobbs and Gary Paulsen.
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