Dan Weekes is a prankster at heart, working up the courage to ask out his crush, Erin. His mom is trying to find love in their home in California, and believes she has found it with Hank, a dentist and a survivalist — and they’ve already gotten engaged. But Dan feels differently, since his mom has felt similarly about many other people — all horrific letdowns. So when his mom sends Dan, his best friend Charlie, and Hank off into the wilderness to become acquainted, he prepares dozens of malicious pranks so Hank will show his true colors… However, thing go downhill when a bear runs them out of their camp, and Hank gets badly hurt in the escape. With the loss of most of their supplies, Dan, Charlie, and a wounded Hank must evade the surprisingly persistent bear and find help.
The book combines the survivalist mentality and gritty realism of Gary Paulsen’s “Hatchet” with the blunt language of Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely-True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”. While it does contain plenty of crude humor and uses profanity, it does hit upon some soft spots — with motifs of love, revenge, and pain being used to remind readers that these characters have goals and dreams that ought to be respected rather than laughed at. The book creates an odd mixture of emotions, often changing from one moment to the next — we laugh at Hank and root for Dan, until we ask ourselves whether Dan has gone too far. Dan’s simultaneous unspoken hatred of and willingness to listen to Hank make this book unique.
One memorable scene towards the beginning of the book is when Dan and Charlie go through what they plan to do to Hank. The plans range from simple to wildly complex, and it is hilarious to read through.
Reviewed by Adam, Grade 9, Tuckahoe Area Library