Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Wendelin Van Draanen
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Fourteen-year-old Wren Clemmens is awoken in the wee hours of the morning by her parents and two police officers. The officers put her in their vehicle and drive her to LAX where she is flown to Utah for a life changing desert “camp”. Coming down from her drug and alchohol high, Wren feels sick, betrayed, and furious. Her first week is miserable because she resists any offered help or contact with her “jailers”. Eventually she realizes that she needs help to survive and hesitantly begins to open up. As she learns to make fire and pitch her tent, she gains confidence and makes some friends. The weeks pass and with help from her “jailers” and friends she begins to heal and to determine her own future.
This is a really well-written journey of self-discovery. Wren is a determined girl who started drugs at a young age. Her troubled past is revealed in chapters that alternate with ones about her present struggle. The reader moves back and forth with Wren through her bad decisions and the awakening of her sense of self. The timeline parallel reveals Wren’s history one step after the other in the same manner that she is learning about herself. The writing is bold, conscious, and compelling. The pace never slows, and interest in the characters, especially Wren, never wanes. The dialogue and emotion are honest. Material that some may consider questionable is never gratuitous or more than is needed to convey the messages. This is a very good book for anyone in their teens and preteens, or anyone who knows a young person.