n her most incisive and insightful book yet, Wendelin Van Draanen, award-winning author of The Running Dream and Flipped, offers a remarkable portrait of a girl who has hit rock bottom, but begins a climb back to herself at a wilderness survival camp in the desert. 3:47 a.m. That’s when they come for Wren Clemmens. She’s hustled out of her house and into a waiting car, then a plane, and then taken on a forced march into the desert. This is what happens to kids who’ve gone so far off the rails, their parents don’t know what to do with them anymore. This is wilderness therapy camp. Eight weeks of survivalist camping in the desert. Eight weeks to turn your life around. Yeah, right. The Wren who arrives in the Utah desert is angry and bitter, and blaming everyone but herself. But angry can’t put up a tent. And bitter won’t start a fire. Wren’s going to have to admit she needs help if she’s going to survive.
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.