This young adult novel deftly balances classic man-versus-nature and man-versus-himself literary tropes. Though Fort’s temper makes others fear him, the book portrays him not as a villain but as an unlikely hero searching for peace; he worries others will reject him when they see his exasperation and anger. Over the course of the story, Fort's desperate need to protect the others drives him to develop self-control amid an array of dangers emphasizing the indifferent brutality of nature.
Klaassen provides just enough detail to turn characters like Fort's twin brothers (Tommy and Timmy) and Billy, the young boy whose arm he broke, into fully realized people instead of just plot devices. Though Klaassen does pile on the perils—the final encounter with an aggressive bull is over-the-top—he also keeps the narrative direct and short. This visceral, exciting, and fast-moving adventure with an unusual protagonist illuminates the need to conquer one’s own demons to help others.
Takeaway: Young adult readers who enjoy flawed characters and the outdoors will be swept up in this suspenseful adventure.
Great for fans of: Kate Alice Marshall's I Am Still Alive, Shaun David Hutchinson's Feral Youth.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: B