Sunday, September 20, 2020

Red Fox Road

Greenslade, Frances. Red Fox Road
September 15th 2020 by Puffin Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Francie and her mother and father are taking a road trip for spring break and traveling from British Columbia to the Grand Canyon. A wrong turn puts them on a logging road that gets rougher and rougher. Eventually, their vehicle stops, and the damage it has sustained is such that it won't start up at all. They have some idea of directions, and the father thinks he can hike to a main road and get help. Francie and her mother stay in the car for a while, trying to stay warm, and existing on mints and granola bars. As the time drags on, Francie is concerned about her mother, who occasionally smokes "special tobacco" to help with her problems' dealing with the death a few years back of Francie's twin sister. Francie doesn't know all the details, and seems oddly disconnected from the death of her twin, other than seeing how it has derailed her guidance counselor mother. When her mother takes off to get help and leaves Francie alone, she must rely on her knowledge of being outdoors (derived from a book on the subject) to gather rainwater from leaves, know which plants are edible, and construct shelter. She adheres to the rule of staying where you are when you are lost for quite some time, but eventually decides to venture out in search of civilization. Will she be able to make it?
Strengths: I love that we are starting to see riveting, detail-rich survival stories with girls as the main character. This is a genre that is consistently popular, so many of my older titles like Carter's Rock and a Hard Place (1995), Klavan's If We Survive (2012, and Johnson's Ice Dogs (2014) and are badly worn. The details of survival are fantastic, and Francie's knowledge of techniques is well explained. The interludes thinking about the past work well. 
Weaknesses: Most middle grade readers will know that marijuana smoke has a "skunky" smell even if they haven't smelled it. It seemed very odd that Francie wasn't told exactly why her twin died; the blame and guilt were realistic, but the level of grief seemed off. As for the mother, a school counselor, neglecting Francie and self medicating with drugs-- I always feel that this is an insulting way to portray grieving parents. Just do. Always will. 
What I really think: I am torn on this one. On the one hand, it's an excellent survival tale, but my personal feelings about the way the mother was portrayed left me not liking the book. This goes well with other survival books out recently, like Behren's Alone in the Woods  and Disaster Days, Bowling's The Canyon's Edge, Diaz's Santiago's Road Home, Lambert's Distress Signal, Esplin's 96 Miles, Olson's Into the Clouds, Van Draanen's Wild Bird, Bledsoe's Running Wild, and Freeman's Alone.

Ms. Yingling

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