Filled with memorable phrases and great characters, including the enjoyable cast of Untraceable, Uncontrollable by S. R. Johannes sends the inestimable Grace back into the woods, scant weeks after her father’s tragic death. Chapter headings give survival tips as valid for backwoods life as for inner-city depression and offer intriguing insights into a teen’s approach to difficulties. Meanwhile, accompanied by “Backwoods Barbie and Camping Ken,” Grace has to learn when to trust and when to take charge, and how to care about people as well as animals. She learns to care for herself too as the story progresses, and the dangers she faces may be even greater than those challenging the wolves she’s trying to save. The novel takes a wisely bleak and honest look at death and its consequences, tackling issues head on and offering a pleasing sense of hope. Grace misses her father and is blamed for other local deaths. Guilt and blame cast shadows over relationships, leaving her with the aching thought that “the one thing about death that’s… hardest…, [is]how much people change.” In a beautiful scene with her old Cherokee friend, Grace feels “We don’t speak the same language anymore,” but is it the language of friendship, of forgiveness, or of the woods? Sometimes lyrical, sometimes oddly abrupt, teen emotions and dialog are convincing. While the adults may seem less relatable, they’re really the minor characters in this novel of teen survival against emotional, ecological and physical odds. The stakes are high. The story’s exciting. The lessons are wise. And the wolves are glorious in this tragic but hopeful teen novel.
Disclosure: I received a free ecopy when the author was a guest on my blog.
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