Into the Wild

Common Sense Media says

Mesmerizing, tragic, and intense bio meant for discussion.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Parents have strained relationship with teen son. Father lies to family. Main character builds strong relationships with adult individuals on the road, but he chooses to be on his own, rebuffing their support and help.


Discussion of what happens to one's body if facing starvation, hypothermia, poison. Animals hunted and shot with guns.


Girl flirts with boy; teens discuss "getting laid" story told of teen drunk trying to have sex with teenage girl; father has affair with ex-wife and she becomes pregnant.


"F--k," "Hell," "S--t," "Goddamn," "Ass."


Mention of Kmart, Colgate toothpaste, Sizzler.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Author mentions own experience with marijuana; adults drink to get drunk and use dope. Man with drinking problems.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know this bestseller was intended for adult readers, but teens may want to read it, thanks to the release of the movie adaptation directed by Sean Penn. Readers will find lots of hitchhiking, discussions of an adulterous relationship, challenges between father and son, and a family's uncertainty of a son's whereabouts and grief upon hearing of his death. The author talks of his own experiences on a high-risk climb in Alaska (including smoking a joint and setting part of his tent on fire).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

From the start, the reader learns of Chris McCandless' death and how he was found. Slowly the story unravels in a piecemeal chronological fashion. The reader learns of his upbringing in a wealthy family living in Virginia; meets the members of his family and discovers the causes for challenging relationships; and tails him on his wanderings that started soon after high school graduation.

In college he becomes more distanced from his parents, especially his father, and without any communication after graduation he begins his journey. The reader learns of the places he visited, relationships he formed, the letters he wrote, and his family's reaction to his death. Krakauer parallels this experience with others who have sought adventure, including himself.

Is it any good?


Jon Krakauer, who admits that he identifies with Chris McCandless, carefully follows the bread-crumb trail of McCandless' flight from home after college graduation. He recognizes the recklessness of the young man's behavior and naiveté of his actions, but also describes his brilliance and thoughtfulness. Without over sentimentalizing, he recognizes that most people would not have the wits, intelligence, or internal strength to live as McCandless did for those two years. Ultimately, McCandless made a tragic mistake; one that may not have been made if he had more experience living in the bush, brought a companion, or had a means of communication.

It's a chilling read and one that can't be put down, but it may not be appropriate for sensitive teen readers or any teens without the maturity to see past the adventure. Overall, parents who have enjoyed it and passed it on to their teens will have much to discuss.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about risk behaviors, including the dangers of hitchhiking and living in a remote area on your own. Parents can ask their teens about their own wanderlust. What is the lure of a wilderness adventure? Or would you rather tour foreign cities? How can this sense adventure be satisfied while being safe? What are specific precautions you should take as a young traveler?

Book details

Author:Jon Krakauer
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Anchor Books
Publication date:January 19, 1997
Number of pages:224
Publisher's recommended age(s):15 - 17

This review of Into the Wild was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 17 year old Written byjohnsander December 9, 2010


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What other families should know
Too much sex
Educational value
Teen, 14 years old Written byCSM Screen Name... April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

I hated this

This book was not okay for my age. It had a lot of bad language and I would not recomend it for anyone under sixteen.
Parent of a 17 year old Written byluiyiluiyi29 October 25, 2009
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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