A teenage girl must fend for herself in a forest miles from civilization in this debut young-adult dramatic thriller.
Seventeen-year-old Janet, on her way to a summer cabin at Birch Lake in Alberta, Canada, is forced to land a plane on her own when her bush-pilot father dies from an apparent heart attack. She survives but has a long journey ahead of her if she has any hope of finding help. Armed with a rifle, revolver and compass, she treks through the woods. She befriends a bear cub but is challenged by adverse weather, a diminishing food supply and nature’s predators—most notably, grizzly bears. Stannard’s novel includes wonderfully tense sequences, as when Janet’s cub companion is frightened by something unseen or when Janet stitches up her own wound. The author offsets the tension with welcome moments of serenity, as Janet recognizes the forest’s beauty despite her dire circumstances: “A light breeze moved the leaves and sunlight danced on the forest floor.” The book slows down considerably when Janet reaches a highway (and humans), with more than half of the story remaining. She tells various people of her plight, including family members, but offers no new information and very little insight, and readers may find these sections repetitious. The action picks up again, however, when Janet returns to the forest with some of her father’s friends to point out a prospector’s cabin and, with any luck, lay claim to a gold mine. The novel might have benefitted from a stronger edit to correct grammatical errors and numerous run-on sentences, which readers may sometimes have to read twice for comprehension (“She had a choice she could go down or go back.”). However, such faults can’t overpower the engaging story of a young girl whose will and fortitude are more powerful than the rifle she wields.
A YA adventure that overcomes its shortcomings with edgy forest scenes and a remarkable protagonist.