25 Middle Grade and Young Adult Survival Stories To Give Readers Hope

Today’s post is sponsored by Rebecca Behrens and Alone In The Woods!

Title Alone In The Woods
Author Rebecca Behrens
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Publication Date October 6th 2020 by Sourcebooks Young Readers
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From the author of The Disaster Days comes a thrilling survival story about two former best friends who must work together to stay alive after getting lost in a remote national forest.

Jocelyn and Alex have always been best friends…until they aren’t. Jocelyn’s not sure what happened, but she hopes the annual joint-family vacation in the isolated north woods will be the perfect spot to rekindle their friendship.

But Alex still isn’t herself when they get to the cabin. And Jocelyn reaches a breaking point during a rafting trip that goes horribly wrong. When the girls’ tube tears it leaves them stranded and alone. And before they know it, the two are hopelessly lost.

Wearing swimsuits and water shoes and with only the contents of their wet backpack, the girls face threats from the elements. And as they spend days and nights lost in the wilderness, they’ll have to overcome their fractured friendship to make it out of the woods alive.


When I was growing up, one of my favourite books was The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. I haven’t had the opportunity to re-read the book as an adult so I’m not certain if it would hold up to scrutiny now, but one of the things I remember most is my awe and admiration for the protagonist’s strength and resilience in the face of an unimaginable situation. In the novel, nine-year-old Trisha becomes separated from her mom and brother while on a hike on the Appalachian Trail and is lost in the wilderness with only her portable radio and news of her favourite baseball player, Tom Gordon, to comfort her.

Whether it be a zombie outbreak, a natural disaster, or isolation in the unknown, survival stories like The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Hatchet allow readers to explore and confront their deepest fears in a safe space and they provide reassurance that, even in the most dire or impossible situations, there is always a reason to hope. At a time when hope and optimism feel in particularly short supply, my wish is that at least one of the books on today’s list of middle grade and young adult survival stories can provide that much-needed hope to a new generation of readers, just as The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon once did for me.


Publication Date January 1st 2013 by Katherine Tegen Books
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Fans of classic frontier survival stories, as well as readers of dystopian literature, will enjoy this futuristic story where water is worth more than gold. New York Times bestselling author Michael Grant says Not A Drop To Drink is a debut “not to be missed.” With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a frontierlike world not so different from our own.

Teenage Lynn has been taught to defend her pond against every threat: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and most important, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty — or doesn’t leave at all. Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. But when strangers appear, the mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it…

For more in this gritty world, join Lynn on an epic journey to find home in the companion novel, In A Handful Of Dust.




Publication Date March 3rd 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books
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Hatchet meets Wild in this harrowing YA survival story about a teenage girl’s attempt to endure the impossible, from the Edgar Award-winning author of The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis.

The world is not tame. Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof.

So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine.

Morning brings the realization that she’s alone — and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive with the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.




Publication Date December 8th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin
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He prepared their family for every natural disaster known to man – except for the one that struck.

When Nicole Reed’s father forces her family to move to a remote area of the Sierra Foothills, one without any modern conveniences, it’s too much too handle for her mother, who abandons them in the middle of the night. Heading out to track her down, Nicole’s father leaves her in charge of taking care of the house and her younger sister, Izzy. For a while, Nicole is doing just fine running things on her own. But then the food begins to run out, the pipes crack, and forest fires start slowly inching their way closer every day. Wolf, a handsome boy from the neighboring community, offers to help her when she needs it most, but when she starts to develop feelings for him, feelings she knows she will never be allowed to act on once her father returns, she must make a decision. With her family falling apart, will she choose to continue preparing for tomorrow’s disasters, or will she take a chance and really start living for today?

Jamie Kain’s Instructions For The End Of The World is a gripping, young adult novel that explores family, friendship, and love in the midst of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.




Publication Date April 5th 2016 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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Wall-E meets Hatchet in this New York Times bestselling illustrated middle grade novel from Caldecott Honor winner Peter Brown.

Can a robot survive in the wilderness?

When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is all alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is – but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a violent storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants.

As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home – until, one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.

From bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown comes a heartwarming and action-packed novel about what happens when nature and technology collide.




Publication Date February 17th 2015 by HarperTeen
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Blending elements of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, this gripping story from Kathryn Holmes was deemed “a page turner” by author Richard Peck and “an intense story of survival” by ALA Booklist in its starred review.

Sophomore Hallie Calhoun has just endured the most excruciating six months of her life. Once the rumors about her and the preacher’s son, Luke, made their way around school, her friends abandoned her, and as a result, Hallie has completely withdrawn.

Now on a hiking trip in the Smoky Mountains with the same people who have relentlessly taunted her, Hallie is pushed to her limit. Then Hallie, outgoing newcomer Rachel, and Jonah — Hallie’s former friend — get separated from the rest of the group. As days go by without rescue, their struggle for survival turns deadly. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to trust one another in order to stay alive…and for Hallie, that means opening up about what really happened that night with Luke.

From the catty atmosphere of high school to the unpredictable terrain of the mountains, this novel is a poignant, raw journey about finding yourself after having been lost for so long.




Publication Date July 16th 2019 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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A major hurricane is raging across the southern United States, and two unsuspecting kids are about to have the adventure of a lifetime! Perfect for kids who love high-stakes plots and natural disaster movies, and anyone interested in extreme weather!

A little rain and wind don’t worry Alejo – they’re just part of life at the beach. As his padrino says, as long as there are birds in the waves, it’s safe. When people start evacuating, though, Alejo realizes things might be worse than he thought. And they are. A hurricane is headed straight for Puerto Rico.

Emily’s brother, Elliot, has been really sick. He can’t go outside their New Orleans home, so Emily decides to have an adventure for him. She’s on a secret mission to the tiny island Elliot loves. She’s not expecting to meet up with an injured goose or a shy turtle. And nothing has prepared her for Megastorm Valerie. Soon Alejo and Emily will be in Valerie’s deadly path. Who will survive?




Publication Date August 22nd 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
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Robie is an experienced traveler. She’s taken the flight from Honolulu to the Midway Atoll, a group of Pacific islands where her parents live, many times. When she has to get to Midway in a hurry after a visit with her aunt in Hawaii, she gets on the next cargo flight at the last minute. She knows the pilot, but on this flight, there’s a new co-pilot named Max. All systems are go until a storm hits during the flight. The only passenger, Robie doesn’t panic until the engine suddenly cuts out and Max shouts at her to put on a life jacket. They are over miles of Pacific Ocean. She sees Max struggle with a raft.

And then…she’s in the water. Fighting for her life. Max pulls her onto the raft, and that’s when the real terror begins. They have no water. Their only food is a bag of Skittles. There are sharks. There is an island. But there’s no sign of help on the way.




Publication Date June 19th 2012 by St. Martin’s Griffin
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It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life – and death – inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?




Publication Date September 4th 2018 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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In the tradition of The War That Saved My Life and Stella By Starlight, this poignant novel in verse based on true events tells the story of a boy’s harrowing experience on a lifeboat after surviving a torpedo attack during World War II.

With Nazis bombing London every night, it’s time for thirteen-year-old Ken to escape. He suspects his stepmother is glad to see him go, but his dad says he’s one of the lucky ones — one of ninety boys and girls to ship out aboard the SS City of Benares to safety in Canada.

Life aboard the luxury ship is grand — nine-course meals, new friends, and a life far from the bombs, rations, and his stepmum’s glare. And after five days at sea, the ship’s officers announce that they’re out of danger.

They’re wrong.

Late that night, an explosion hurls Ken from his bunk. They’ve been hit. Torpedoed! The Benares is sinking fast. Terrified, Ken scrambles aboard Lifeboat 12 with five other boys. Will they get away? Will they survive?

Award-winning author Susan Hood brings this little-known World War II story to life in a riveting novel of courage, hope, and compassion. Based on true events and real people, Lifeboat 12 is about believing in one another, knowing that only by banding together will we have any chance to survive.




Publication Date May 5th 2020 by Tor Teen
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Demetra Brodsky’s Last Girls is a twisting, suspenseful YA thriller about sisterhood, survival, and family secrets set in the world of doomsday prepping.

No one knows how the world will end.

On a secret compound in the Washington wilderness, Honey Juniper and her sisters are training to hunt, homestead, and protect their own.

Prepare for every situation.

But when danger strikes from within, putting her sisters at risk, training becomes real life, and only one thing is certain:

Nowhere is safe.




Publication Date April 17th 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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From Watt Key, the author of the acclaimed Alabama Moon, comes a thrilling middle grade survival story about a scuba dive gone wrong and two enemies who must unite to survive.

It’s the most important rule of scuba diving: If you don’t feel right, don’t go down.

So after her father falls ill, twelve-year-old Julie Sims must take over and lead two of his clients on a dive miles off the coast of Alabama while her father stays behind in the boat. When the clients, a reckless boy Julie’s age and his equally foolhardy father, disregard Julie’s instructions during the dive, she quickly realizes she’s in over her head.

And once she surfaces, things only get worse: One of the clients is in serious condition, and their dive boat has vanished ― along with Julie’s father, the only person who knows their whereabouts. It’s only a matter of time before they die of hypothermia, unless they become shark bait first. Though Julie may not like her clients, it’s up to her to save them all.




Publication Date March 1st 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
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Mean Girls meets Life of Pi in this darkly humorous, compulsively readable teen novel that’s perfect for fans of Libba Bray and Andrew Smith. A hilariously dark and twisted story that sparkles with a remarkably fresh voice, The Lifeboat Clique is Kathy Parks’s irreverent yet insightful novel about how to survive in the most unthinkable circumstances.

Some people might say that Denver has a death wish. Why else would she dare to sneak into a Malibu beach party where she’d be surrounded by enemies?

Oh yeah. Croix. Denver never thought in a million years he’d ask her out, but who is she to question this miracle of fate?

Well, that isn’t the only surprise fate has in store.

During the party a tsunami hits the coast of California, and Denver and a handful of others escape death and are swept out to sea. Of course, one of her fellow castaways is none other than her ex-BFF, Abigail, who can barely stand the sight of her.

Trapped on a small boat with the most popular kids in school and waiting to be rescued, Denver wonders what might kill her first — dehydration, sunstroke, or the girl she used to think of as a sister?




Publication Date October 6th 2020 by Sourcebooks Young Readers
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From the author of The Disaster Days comes a thrilling survival story about two former best friends who must work together to stay alive after getting lost in a remote national forest.

Jocelyn and Alex have always been best friends…until they aren’t. Jocelyn’s not sure what happened, but she hopes the annual joint-family vacation in the isolated north woods will be the perfect spot to rekindle their friendship.

But Alex still isn’t herself when they get to the cabin. And Jocelyn reaches a breaking point during a rafting trip that goes horribly wrong. When the girls’ tube tears it leaves them stranded and alone. And before they know it, the two are hopelessly lost.

Wearing swimsuits and water shoes and with only the contents of their wet backpack, the girls face threats from the elements. And as they spend days and nights lost in the wilderness, they’ll have to overcome their fractured friendship to make it out of the woods alive.




Publication Date July 10th 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books
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Notes From My Captivity is a sharp, sensitive, and darkly funny novel perfect for fans of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens and Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not.

Adrienne Cahill cares about three things: getting into a great college; becoming a revered journalist like her idol, Sydney Declay; and making her late father proud of her.

So when Adrienne is offered the chance to write an article that will get her into her dream school and debunk her foolish stepfather’s belief that a legendary family of hermits is living in the Siberian wilderness, there’s no question that she’s going to fly across the world.

But the Russian terrain is even less forgiving than Adrienne. And when disaster strikes, none of their extensive preparations seem to matter. Now Adrienne’s being held captive by the family she was convinced didn’t exist, and her best hope for escape is to act like she cares about them, even if it means wooing the youngest son.




Publication Date January 12th 2021 by Aladdin
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Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing middle grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.

When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone — left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.

With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.

As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?




Publication Date October 20th 2020 by Scholastic Press
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In this edge-of-your-seat survival story, four classmates are stranded in a desert wilderness after a flash flood separates them from the rest of their grade. Can they make it to safety?

Lavender’s class is on a field trip in the desert of Chiricahua National Monument, hiking down a ravine, when a flash flood strikes!

As the water hurtles down the ravine, everyone sprints for safety. Lavender runs in the opposite direction as the rest of her class and scrambles up a tree while the torrential river rages by.

When the waters finally recede, Lavender finds herself stranded in the brutal heat of the desert with only her ex-best friend Marisol, mean-girl Rachelle, and a boy named John. They are shaken, disoriented, and have just one pack of supplies and the most basic wilderness knowledge. Can they find their way back to safety? They will have to learn to work together in spite of their differences ― if they want to survive.




Publication Date April 3rd 2018 by Simon Pulse
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In this romantic dramedy from the author of Alex, Approximately, a teen girl’s way-too-ordinary life is driven off the beaten path when she’s abandoned in the wilderness with her worst adversary — the boy who broke her heart.

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?




Publication Date October 1st 2019 by Sourcebooks Young Readers
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Hatchet meets The Babysitters Club in this book for kids 9-12, that tells the epic and thrilling survival story about pushing oneself to the limit in the face of a crisis.

Hannah Steele loves living on Pelling, a tiny island near Seattle. It’s a little disconnected from the outside world, but she’s always felt completely safe there.

Which is why when she’s asked one day to babysit after school, she thinks it’s no big deal. Zoe and Oscar are her next-door neighbors, and Hannah just took a babysitting class that she’s pretty sure makes her an expert. She isn’t even worried that she left her inhaler at home.

Then the shaking begins.

The terrifying earthquake only lasts four minutes but it changes everything, damaging the house, knocking out the power, and making cell service nonexistent. Even worse, the ferry and the bridge connecting the kids to help ― and their parents―are both blocked. Which means they’re stranded and alone…With Hannah in charge, as things go from bad to dangerous.




Publication Date December 19th 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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It was supposed to be epic.

During a late-night poker game, tennis teammates Colin, Ceo, Grahame, and Rhody make a pact to go on a camping trip in Yosemite National Park. And poker vows can’t be broken.

So the first sign that they should ditch the plan is when Rhody backs out. The next is when Ceo replaces him with Ellie, a girl Grahame and Colin have never even heard of. And then there’s the forest fire at their intended campsite.

But instead of bailing, they decide to take the treacherous Snow Creek Falls Trail to the top of Yosemite Valley. From there, the bad decisions really pile up.

A freak storm is threatening snow, their Craigslist tent is a piece of junk, and Grahame is pretty sure there’s a bear on the prowl. On top of that, the guys have some serious baggage (and that’s not including the ridiculously heavy ax that Grahame insisted on packing) and Ellie can’t figure out what their deal is.

And then one of them doesn’t make it back to the tent.

Desperate to survive while piecing together what happened, the remaining hikers must decide who to trust in this riveting, witty, and truly unforgettable psychological thriller that reveals how one small mistake can have chilling consequences.




Publication Date September 3rd 2019 by The Blue Sky Press
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Newbery Honor author Rodman Philbrick sends readers straight into the nightmare of a raging wildfire as 12-year-old Sam is trapped by explosive flames and deadly smoke that threaten to take his life. Can he survive?

Flames race toward Sam Castine’s summer camp as evacuation buses are loading, but Sam runs back to get his phone. Suddenly, a flash of heat blasts him as pine trees explode. Now a wall of fire separates Sam from his bus, and there’s only one thing to do: Run for his life. Run or die.

Lungs burning, Sam’s only goal is to keep moving. Drought has made the forest a tinderbox, and Sam struggles to remember survival tricks he learned from his late father. Then, when he least expects it, he encounters Delphy, an older girl who is also lost. Their unlikely friendship grows as they join forces to find civilization.

The pace never slows, and eventually flames surround Sam and Delphy on all sides. A powerful bond is forged that can only grow out of true hardship – as two true friends beat all odds and outwit one of the deadliest fires ever.

At the end of the novel, information about wildfires and useful safety tips add to the reader’s understanding of one of the US’s most dangerous natural disasters.




Publication Date October 2nd 2018 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
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When the California drought escalates to catastrophic proportions, one teen is forced to make life and death decisions for her family in this harrowing story of survival from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman.

The drought — or the Tap-Out, as everyone calls it — has been going on for a while now. Everyone’s lives have become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t fill up your pool, don’t take long showers.

Until the taps run dry.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation; neighbors and families turned against each other on the hunt for water. And when her parents don’t return and her life — and the life of her brother — is threatened, Alyssa has to make impossible choices if she’s going to survive.




Publication Date July 24th 2018 by Viking Books for Young Readers
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Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets The Revenant in this heart-pounding story of survival and revenge in the unforgiving wilderness.

After: Jess is alone. Her cabin has burned to the ground. She knows if she doesn’t act fast, the cold will kill her before she has time to worry about food. But she is still alive — for now.

Before: Jess hadn’t seen her survivalist, off-the-grid dad in over a decade. But after a car crash killed her mother and left her injured, she was forced to move to his cabin in the remote Canadian wilderness. Just as Jess was beginning to get to know him, a secret from his past paid them a visit, leaving her father dead and Jess stranded.

After: With only her father’s dog for company, Jess must forage and hunt for food, build shelter, and keep herself warm. Some days it feels like the wild is out to destroy her, but she’s stronger than she ever imagined.

Jess will survive. She has to. She knows who killed her father…and she wants revenge.




Publication Date October 30th 2018 by Point
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Watch your step.

Eliza knows the legends about the swamp near her house – that people have fallen into sinkholes, never to be seen again, maybe even falling to the center of the earth. As an aspiring geologist, she knows the last part is impossible. But when her best friends drag her onto the uneven ground anyway, Eliza knows to be worried.

And when the earth opens under her feet, there isn’t even time to say I told you so.

As she scrambles through one cave, which leads to another, and another, Eliza finds herself in an impossible world – where a small group of people survive underground, running from vicious creatures, eating giant bugs, and creating their own subterranean society. Eliza is grateful to be alive, but this isn’t home. Is she willing to risk everything to get back to the surface?




Publication Date May 5th 2015 by Aladdin
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Two brothers need all their wilderness skills to survive when they set off into the woods of Wyoming in search of their absent father.

Jake and Taylor Wilder have been taking care of themselves for a long time. Their father abandoned the family years ago, and their mother is too busy working and running interference between the boys and her boyfriend, Bull, to spend a lot of time with them. Thirteen-year-old Jake spends most of his time reading. He pores over his father’s journal, which is full of wilderness facts and survival tips. Eleven-year-old Taylor likes to be outside playing with their dog, Cody, or joking around with the other kids in the neighborhood.

But one night everything changes. The boys discover a dangerous secret that Bull is hiding.

And the next day, they come home from school to find their mother unconscious in an ambulance. Afraid that their mom is dead and fearing for their own safety, the Wilder Boys head off in search of their father. They only have his old letters and journal to help them, but they bravely venture onward.

It’s a long journey from the suburbs of Pittsburgh to the wilderness of Wyoming; can the Wilder Boys find their father before Bull catches up with them?




Publication Date January 5th 2016 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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A modern-day adventure and classic in the making, in the vein of The Call of the Wild, Hatchet, and The Cay, by award-winning author Iain Lawrence.

Less than forty-eight hours after twelve-year-old Chris sets off on a sailing trip down the Alaskan coast with his uncle, their boat sinks. The only survivors are Chris and a boy named Frank, who hates Chris immediately. Chris and Frank have no radio, no flares, no food. Suddenly, they’ve got to forage, fish, and scavenge the shore for supplies. Chris likes the company of a curious, friendly raven more than he likes the prickly Frank. But the boys have to get along if they want to survive.

Because as the days get colder and the salmon migration ends, survival will take more than sheer force of will. Eventually, in the wilderness of Alaska, the boys discover an improbable bond — and the compassion that might truly be the path to rescue.

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Jen is a thirty-something Canadian book blogger and bibliophile currently residing in the wilds of suburbia. Aside from a penchant for older men, particularly those with the surnames Firth, Elba and Norton, Jen is also passionately interested in running, Mad Men, and Marilyn Monroe. In addition to being a voracious reader and self-proclaimed television addict, Jen is also an aspiring children and youth services librarian who would like to pursue a MLIS and better help readers find the perfect book for them.

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