Budding cowboy Danny is faced with a crushing moral dilemma.
His border collie, Banjo, feral when adopted seven years ago, has been accused by a neighboring rancher’s sons of joining wild dogs in attacking their flock. They say they had to shoot at Banjo to stop him. Now the neighbor wants Banjo to be euthanized, claiming he’s dangerous. Danny knows Banjo wouldn’t attack livestock, but his dog has clearly been winged by a bullet. His earnest father allows the 13-year-old two days to find Banjo another home. When no one will agree to take the dog, Danny and his older brother bring him into the mountains and drive him away with gunfire, hoping he’ll recall his feral background and survive—then claim to have shot him. But Danny knows Banjo’s chances are uncertain, and he suffers agonizing guilt: He’s failed Banjo and deceived his father. Meanwhile, talented horse-whisperer Meg finds Banjo and cares for him but is determined to discover who would abandon such a good dog. Although Banjo’s placement is eventually resolved and his innocence proven, the moral ambiguity of the teen’s situation not only dominates the narrative, but will leave many readers wondering what other course he could have taken. White-default characters are carefully drawn, and the sustained suspense makes for an engaging tale set in rural Oregon.
A page-turner that doesn’t offer all the answers. (Fiction. 10-14)