I’m really sorry for naming this review after the most cliche song I could have quoted — OR AM I?
Sixteen-year-old Jess has been through it this year. She survived a terrible car crash that killed her mother on impact. She’s left scarred and her leg is irrevocably damaged, despite the diligence she has devoted to her physical therapy. And now, the court has ordered her custody to the father she has barely known, transported there by an old family friend named Gil. Gil does not bring her to the government address on hand, however. She is flown to the Canadian wilderness, where her father has been living off-the-grid and off the land, his whereabouts only known by Gil and a select group her father refers to as friends, but not really in a friendly way.
Despite her resentment at being there and her difficult healing process, Jess begins to learn more about what off-the-grid living entails. But she wants out. She and her father come to an agreement: she will give it a year, but then she wants to return to her old life. Her father is willing to make the move, but needs the time to sort out his mysterious business with his old “friends.”
Three weeks into their tentative relationship, however, Jess is dealt another blow. When a plane that is decidedly NOT Gil’s shows up, her father sends Jess into hiding with his dog Bo. And very quickly, Jess is witness to the murder of her father, whose killers burn their cabin and shed to the ground, burying her father with a lockbox of unknown contents. Jess barely has time to grab a rifle, her bow, and other odds and ends. With the notebook Gil gifted her, Jess begins to chronicle what happened before her father’s death, and what is happening after – because it is likely that when Gil finally returns to the cabin after the long winter, she will not be alive to tell the story.
This book is tense, exciting, and emotionally wrought! I loved it. I came to it in a rather embarrassing way: Ben Affleck is starring in a film adaptation as the father and I guess I wanted to read about someone handsome? I don’t know. But it also came highly recommended by my favorite podcast (Hey YA! by Book Riot).
I don’t read a lot of survival fiction because I am a bit squeamish, but I guess I’m a tough old adult now. I’m not about to go out and watch 127 hours or anything, but I’m proud of myself. More difficult than Jess’s survival needs is emotionally dealing with her survival and circumstances, alone with Bo and the Canadian wild and grieving the very quick loss of two parents. If you read the book blurb, you will see it includes her stating her intent of revenge — and man, when her motivation changes from just survival to “survive and kill those motherfuckers,” it’s a real gear shift and a good one.
Readers who cannot handle animal suffering should avoid this one — but that is probably not a surprise nor a spoiler: it’s a survival book and there’s a dog, it’s gonna be rough. That being said — the book is really worth the emotional cost.
But I DID cry for a solid minute after I put it down, and I mean I CRIIIIED. I have frequently teared up, but I can’t remember the last time I sobbed over a book.
I can’t wait for the movie, just not sure who will go with me, HA!