Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots Book Poster Image

Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots



Summer read with a bit of depth and country charm.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Teaches a bit about environmentalism and capitalism, and how they are related.

Positive messages

Strong messages about honesty, facing fears, and being open to learn new things. 

Positive role models

Jenna's heart is always in the right place, and when she sees that her brand of suburban environmentalism is shallow, she realizes she has a lot to learn about the different sides of the conservationism coin. She hangs in there as she tries to find common ground with her new peers. Ethan, Reeve, and Grady are responsible and hard-working teens. The teens work together with Jenna's godmother to help make the opening week of the new bed and breakfast a success.

Not applicable

One instance of the phrase "do it," and some kissing.


One use of "f--king." Fairly frequent use of "bitch" as a verb, and "bitchy" is often used to describe a particularly surly character.


Some brands mentioned in passing: Pop Tart, Rock Band.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Adults drink alcohol at a party.

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.

Parents say

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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.

Families can talk 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?

Book details

Author:Abby McDonald
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Candlewick Press
Publication date:April 16, 2010
Number of pages:304
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

This review of Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots was written by

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Kid, 12 years old November 15, 2010

perfect for mature teens, and some tweens

this book was really great. The only thing i was really shocked about is the language and the (many) references to "doing it". there's a lot of consumerisum here (e.g jellybeans, ipod, iphone, the gap), and one instance of the f bomb with the sprinkle of the a and b word. however, when you overlook the bad stuff there's a really posotive message here, telling kids that protecting the environment isn't something to take lightly. it also shows kids the importance of self-control when expressing your ideas. all in all this is a really great book, but you definitley have to use caution if you're a bit younger 'cuz the stuff might not be appropriate.(:
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Great messages
Teen, 13 years old Written bysojay May 20, 2011

Amazing story!-There should be a sequel

I read this book and I just finished it. I really wasn't interested at first, but once the plot got exciting, i perked up. This is a really well written book!
What other families should know
Great role models