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Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots    by Abby McDonald order for
Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots
by Abby McDonald
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2010 (2010)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Abby McDonald, author of the engaging Sophomore Switch brings us another delightful fish-out-of-water story in Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots. Once again she deals with the importance of true friendship, and finding your own path through the puzzles of relationships and life direction.

Suburban Jenna has flung herself headlong into a high school passion for Green Teen activism along with her BFF Olivia. But Jenna's plans for a summer internship with Earth Now are derailed when her parents announce that her dad will be working in Europe and she and her mom are to spend the summer with her grandmother in Orlando. Since this doesn't suit Jenna at all, she arranges to visit her godmother Susie in the British Columnia wilderness instead. (Jenna also senses that her parents might be on the verge of a divorce and is in serious denial.)

Jenna's refuge near Stillwater in the Rocky Mountains is not at all what she expected. Susie hasn't changed but she and her husband are in the middle of a huge renovation project to turn their old clapboard Victorian into a B & B. Susie's stepdaughter Fiona is outright hostile (to both Susie and Jenna). And Jenna has serious culture shock with the boys (Ethan, Grady and Reeve) with whom Fiona hangs out. Concerned with their community's survival, they're not very impressed by her rather naive environmental outlook.

Olivia accompanies her boyfriend Cash to a collective in upstate New York, where she quickly turns into a radical. Slowly, and helped by her positive attitude, Jenna makes a place for herself in Stillwater. She joins the boys kayaking and hiking, allowing them to videotape her misadventures for a website promoting the area's activities and her godmother's inn. She helps Susie with the renovation. And she befriends Ethan, who turns out to be keeping it a secret that he's gay.

Eventually Fiona thaws, while Jenna and one of the boys become close (especially after they encounter a bear in the mountains). She starts to realize that environmental issues (and others) are not simply black and white but that life demands compromises and the ability to see shades of grey. When Livvy shows up suddenly, Jenna realizes that she and her friend have grown in different directions. And she discovers that she now has the inner strength to face her family situation. Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots is a great summer read!

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