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Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book starts out touting pro-environmentalism ideals, which is then tempered with a message of balance. One character is gay, but he doesn't want his small town to know because he fears he will only be defined by his sexuality. There's a little kissing and one "f" bomb but not much else objectionable.
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What's the story?
Jenna is an eco-activist from the suburbs of New Jersey, excited to spend the summer with her godmother, Susie, in rural Stillwater, British Columbia. She assumes her environmentalist ideals will be welcome in such a natural setting, but she quickly finds out she's wrong and has to reconcile her ideals with the truth of conservationism in Stillwater. She also has to face the fact that her parents are very likely separating, and she and her best friend are drifting further apart. Once she sheds her know-it-all attitude, she opens herself up to a new relationship and new friends. She has to open her mind and learn from the locals: surly Fiona, who would rather Jenna -- and Susie, Fiona's stepmother -- go back where she came from, and hard-working brothers, Evan, Grady, and Reeve, who always seem ready to challenge Jenna's assumptions. When the teens join together to create a website to promote Stillwater's natural charm, and with the help of a straight-talking outdoor manual, Jenna gradually begins to see things from the Stillwater folks' point of view.
Is it any good?
Jenna's passion for her ideals makes her easy to relate to. The same goes when she thinks she has it all figured out but discovers otherwise. It's the kind of summer education we wish all lovably know-it-all teens had. She's also facing fears on a few fronts -- the fear of rock climbing and the emotional fear that if she takes her mother's phone calls she'll know for sure that her parents are separating.
Along with quite a bit of character growth are some quirky touches, like when Jenna finds an out-of-print outdoor manual in a used bookstore and realizes she can apply the author's straight-forward lessons to the people of Stillwater, not just the nature. It all adds a little more depth to what, at first glance, looks like a simple, fun summer read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about ideals. Have you ever thought the world is or should be a certain way and then found out that the world is not black and white? How did you handle it?
Jenna tries so many new things, even though each new experience scares her. Is there anything you're afraid to try? What do you think the benefits are of doing things that you're afraid to do?
Jenna and Olivia drift apart over the summer. Do you think relationships that change that much can be salvaged? What would you do if that happened to you and your best friend?