In Bradley’s (Wilder’s Edge, 2013) YA sequel, a summer of adventure continues for cousins Henry and Dylan and their friend Arla when a job of running supplies on a lake near the U.S.-Canada border puts them in the middle of some shady goings-on.
Teenager Henry usually spends only a week at the Minnesota cabin with his cousin’s family, but this year, it’s the entire summer. He and Dylan are grounded (a carry-over from the previous book), but Dylan’s dad, Mike, lets the boys deliver supplies to cabins on Rainy Lake. The two, along with Arla, can’t stay away from trouble; they respond to screams coming from Turtle Island and save a bear cub. Near the border, they find an old mink farm and empty cages, but they realize something’s wrong when, inside a seemingly abandoned cabin, someone traps them by slamming the door shut. Meanwhile, strange but affectionate local resident “the king” knows for sure that illegal activity is afoot, having found mysterious, large plastic coolers. And the situation later becomes dire for the teens when one of them goes missing. Bradley’s quick, appealing novel is boosted by illustrative descriptions of the surrounding wilderness—towering pines “coated in green moss” and bundles of blueberry bushes—and even the food, such as the “thick and creamy” chocolate or wild strawberries mixed with vanilla ice cream that Arla’s grandmother sells at her store, the Last Stop. Henry is a laudable protagonist; he knows a lot less about fishing or boating than his bulkier cousin, but he’s a lovable nerd more comfortable at science camp, so it’s painted as a shame that new Last Stop employee Rika keeps her attention solely on Dylan and largely ignores Henry. The king’s “protectors,” dogs Freya and Odin, nearly steal the story in sheer cuteness; their master, eyeing a suspiciously low-flying plane, tries to move stealthily through the woods, and the canines belly-crawl behind him. There are subtle references to the author’s prior novel to pique reader interest—in a callback, the book opens with the two boys retrieving Dylan’s boat motor from the bottom of the lake—as well as a good number of suspects to deepen the mystery, from a man who’s served time in prison to the returning, and rather unpleasant, Helgason brothers.
More enjoyable escapades for Henry and company in this delightful summertime series.