COMING BACK ALIVE by Dennis J. Reader


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Bridget comes on, talking. Talking SuperSuburbia America; ""or in this case the sweet expensive foothills of the East Bay, across the water from San Francisco."" Or: ""Yessir, while I had it, I really did have it."" But once her really nice mom and dad have been killed by a drunken driver, once special-friend Dylan's really awful parents have split up, once icky Aunt Charlene has announced her intention of selling the house ("". . . our house! . . . my Mom and Dad's house!"") and taking Bridget back to Santa Barbara, the souped-up SuperTeen monologue turns into a story of two teen runaways and almost straightens out completely when they reach the Trinity Mountains, in northern California, and settle in, Crusoe-fashion. Author Reader, unlike many who dump kids down in the wilderness, obviously knows the terrain. Charlene and Dylan cross the treacherous Notch, where others are unlikely to follow. They build one shelter that collapses, and then a real log cabin--and a firepit, and two toilet-pits. They manage ""some order and routine in the meadow . . . until the mountains seemed what you might call the normal place to be."" And except for the dally, unending ""scouring for food,"" it's almost an idyll, punctuated by long, languid talks by the fire. And, yes, their ""special friendship"" does ultimately erupt, but without the teasing suggestiveness that's another hallmark of most such teen novels. Dylan damps it (what if she got pregnant?); life goes on. Until a cheery, garrulous, well-meaning arrival, and a mixed-bag of would-be abductors, remind Bridget of the world of people. ""Messy people""; but, as she tells Dylan, ""our people."" So, without him, she sets off. The relatively unfussed-over resolution is in happy contrast to the worked-up preliminaries--and would, if this were more artful writing, suggest something about Bridget. But what does have some meat--and some humor--is the notion that gets abroad of the two out there as latter-day wildlings, or born-again Ishis. It also sets the book apart, finally, from the run of survival stories.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: Random House