Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
Can a boy-hungry Jersey girl survive the wilds of Canada with her eco-identity intact? A witty new YA novel from the author of SOPHOMORE SWITCH.
Jenna may hail from the ’burbs of New Jersey, but Green Teen activism is her life. So when her mom suggests they spend the summer at Grandma’s Florida condo, Jenna pleads instead to visit her hippie godmother, Susie, up in rural Canada. Jenna is psyched at the chance to commune with this nature she’s heard about — and the cute, plaidwearing boys she’s certain must roam there. But after a few run-ins with local wildlife (from a larger-than-life moose to Susie’s sullen Goth stepdaughter to a hot but hostile boy named Reeve), Jenna gets the idea that her long-held ideals, like vegetarianism and conservation, don’t play so well with this population of real outdoorsmen. A dusty survival guide offers Jenna amusing tips on navigating the wilderness — but can she learn to navigate the turns of her heart?
I remember when I first read the synopsis of this and thought- ohhh this sounds so good! Well, it was! Abby McDonald definitely did not disappoint with Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots. Jenna was a terrific main character and narrator- readers could understand and relate to her and she was someone I would love to know in real life. All of the characters were very well developed and likable, although some went through big changes- whether going from nice to mean, or mean to nice, by the end of the book you know the characters real personalities. This book contained some of my favorite characters in any YA novel. It also had an awesome plot. From page one I was intrigued by Jenna's environmentalism and vegetarianism. These are topics rarely tackled in YA books and some most important to me. I really liked how McDonald emphasized the importance of each environmental/animal rights issue, but encouraged you not to push your opinions on others in a negative way. Jenna learned a lot about what she really believed in by the end of the novel.
In addition to Jenna, there were other AWESOME characters. The boys of Stillwater were all great. Although hostile at first, the reader quickly realizes there's a lot more to them then you first thought! I really liked Reeve and Ethan. They were my favorites of all the guys. Reeve because he was the perfect guy for Jenna and Ethan was just always really nice to her, unlike her supposed best friend Olivia. I don't want to give anything away but let me tell you- Olivia does a complete 180 by the end of the book, she was so awful I just wanted to push her in the lake! Fiona was another character that changed in a complete 180, but in her case it was for the better. She was one of my favorite characters by the end! I also loved Susie and Adam, the couple Jenna was staying with in Canada. This was a very character driven novel and that made me love it that much more.
There were times when I laughed out loud (the moose encounter for example) and others when I wanted to cry (the Olivia-Ethan scene). Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots was definitely not the light read I was expecting- it was so much more. Although the ending was a bit too rushed and a few loose ends were left untied, I think this was a great sophomore novel by Abby McDonald. I definitely want to check out her debut, Sophomore Switch now!
In the end, I definitely recommend picking up a copy of Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots- there are great characters, an awesome plot, sweet romance, environmental awareness, and important messages all tied together in this great book. I wish there really was a Bramble Lane Bed and Breakfast up in Canada I could visit!
Overall: 4.5 out of 5 stars
April 13, 2010/Candlewick/304 Pages/Young Adult
Source: Publisher (ARC)
Also by this author: Sophomore Switch, The Anti-Prom, and The Liberation of Alice Love