Her grandfather’s wisdom and support guide an Alaska Native girl who dreams of racing sled dogs.
Other village teens drink and do drugs; for Denny, 16, mushing supplies all the exhilaration she needs. She loves her home and family (her mother and grandparents); still it’s not an easy life. No indoor plumbing means melting ice for bathwater, visiting the outhouse when it’s 60 below outside. The family sweathouse (sauna) and this world’s stark beauty offer compensation. Like Anne Frank, whose diary she reads for school, Denny confides her frustrations and sorrows to hers. Her mother’s hostile to Denny’s mushing; her father won’t acknowledge her. Only her grandfather, heartened by her interest in their history, offers encouragement and solace. Readers root for Denny as she places third in a local competition, then dreams bigger: entering the 1,100-mile Great Race. Denny, who’s in need of a lead dog, is intrigued by the wolf she encounters. Could he be trained? Stereotypes are thankfully few: Denny’s shy, not impassive or stoic. Village teens, like their urban counterparts, are savvy tech users. The adult-focused language glossary, clumsy transitions, and puzzling inconsistencies in voice and tone occasionally jar but are ultimately eclipsed by narrative strengths.
Powerful, eloquent and fascinating, showcasing a vanishing way of life in rich detail. (glossaries of Indian words, mushing terms) (Fiction. 12-16)