What worked: Insightful tale of a rebellious teen who is sent to a wilderness survival camp in the middle of the Utah desert. Wren's tale is one that teens can relate to. Her struggles to 'fit' in when she moves to a new home leads her to make some bad choices that have terrible consequences. Wren's so-called friend Meadow introduces her to marijuana and to shoplifting. I thought the glimpses into Wren's choices and the consequences that follow are realistic. She lashes out at her family, especially her older sister. When she's sent to the wilderness camp, she's filled with resentment and hatred. She blames everyone for her problems except herself.
This is more a coming of age story of a rebellious teen who needs to learn to be true to herself and to face the pain she carries inside. The wilderness camp is shown through her eyes. Readers see what goes on in such a camp. There's no drugs, alcohol, or even cellphones out in the middle of Utah desert. Wren at first refuses to cooperate but little by little she learns that being out in the desert she learns not only to survive but to face the ugly truth behind her rebellion. By learning to find her way in the desert, she also learns to accept her choices.
The beginning of the novel, Wren is awoken at 3:47 in the morning and taken to the camp without her permission. This scene is gripping and intense. I couldn't stop reading to see where Wren would end up. This camp isn't like some of the more horrific ones that have been on the news but rather one that has caring counselors and advisers who really seem concerned for those sent to their care.
Readers see what leads up to Wren's parent's decision to send her away. Wren's actions start out small and then end up to the point that she admits she's way over her head. I liked how Van Draanen shows the dynamics of a dysfunctional friendship. Meadow at first seems as if she really cares about Wren but readers get glimpses into the one-sided relationship. Readers also see bad boy Nico and how his charm gets Wren to do things she might not otherwise do.
Gripping tale of a girl that learns that the real truth she must face is the one she hides inside while surviving at a wilderness camp.