Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Jungle of Bones by Ben Mikaelsen

Dylan is, by his own admission “a screw up”. He switched off after his Dad died reporting on some foreign war and it's easier for Dylan to stay angry. 

He steals a car and drives donuts through a local farmer's field, then ends up in a jail cell overnight. It seems as though his Mom has given up on him and he's packed off to Uncle Todd's house. Todd is an ex-Marine, so Dylan's Summer becomes a series of training regimens and bad cooking. But Uncle Todd has big plans, he's taking Dylan to the jungles of Papua New Guinea to search for the crash site of Dylan's grandfather's WWII fighter plane. Dylan is a tough kid, he thinks he can handle the jungle, but what he can't handle is being told what to do and that just might kill him.

It is difficult to write a review of this book without giving away the plot and there is so much more to this plot than just a screw up kid finding himself in the jungle. Ben Mikaelsen is also the author of Touching Spirit Bear, so it's not surprising to find some mystical content, what is surprising is the direction it comes from. Jungle of Bones is also about war and how life and death circumstances change all perspectives. 

The writing is breathtaking, there are incredible descriptions of the jungle, the complex character of Uncle Todd is written in the negative spaces of what is left unsaid and Dylan is utterly believable in his knowing stupidity.

An adventure story, a travelogue, a work of anthropology, history and humanity. Stunning.

Ages 12+

Published January 28, 2014 by Scholastic

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