Mikaelsen, Ben. Jungle of Bones.
28 January 2014, Scholastic, Inc.
Dylan is an idiot. He's mad that his reporter father was killed trying to make a difference in Darfur, so he's a jerk to his mother and everyone around him. After he steals a car and ruins a field joyriding in it, his mother packs him off to live with his Uncle Todd. Todd is planning a trip to Papua New Guinea to find the plane, Second Ace, that his father was shot down in during World War II-- his father was the only survivor, and he has a journal to help his search. Dylan is still an idiot-- he doesn't take the pills for malaria his uncle gives him, and is rude about everything. He even lets his pants sag! Once the group gets to PNG, they meet up with their recon team, which includes the knowledgeable, nice and nerdy teen boy, Quentin. The group starts their journey, which is difficult and dangerous, so Dylan decides to be even more of an idiot and gets separated from the group. He ignores all of his training, runs in circles, rips off leeches, drinks out of coconuts, uses the wrong sort of leaves for toilet paper, and eventually passes out. He is saved by Kanzi, who is deep in the jungle but speaks English-- is she real? Eventually, he is rescued and taken to the hospital, where he almost loses his leg to gangrene. After his near death experience, he decides that he should be a better person, especially since so many soldiers give up so much for our country.
Strengths: Lots of good descriptions of survival in the jungle, and an interesting WWII connection that many of my boys will enjoy. Definitely ordering a copy. It will never be on the shelf.
Weaknesses: While my readers will like this, it left a bad taste in my mouth. Dylan is a completely unlikable character, and I was just waiting for some very large jungle animal to finish him off. I think I would have actually enjoyed that. About half way through, I realized that this was just Touching Spirit Bear in the jungle instead of Alaska. Add to this a rather intrusive and strident pro-military tone, and you have a book that made ME wrinkle my nose quite a bit.