The Wild Bunch by Jan Gangsei (review)
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Reviewed by
Gangsei, Jan The Wild Bunch. Aladdin Max, 2017[192p]
Trade ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-6829-9 $17.99
Paper ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-6828-2 $7.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-1-4814-6830-5 $7.99
Reviewed from galleys Ad Gr. 4–6

Twelve-year-old Paul Adams is not looking forward to the forced camaraderie of a weekend spent camping with his dad, Dad’s college buddies, and their sons. Agemates Hector Lopez and Jack Gracie just aren’t friend material—Hector’s an allergy-hobbled nerd; Jack’s a selfish, big-mouthed glutton; and Paul . . . well, he’s our hero-narrator, so he’s just fine, at least according to his own self-assessment. By day two, though, it’s Paul who comes up with the brilliant idea for the boys to hike alone to Bear Falls, which has been put off limits by the park rangers, due to dangerous “beast” sightings and a decrepit bridge. As it so predictably turns out, the deeper the boys wade into trouble, the sharper and more resilient they become, and the better they pull together as a team. Their fathers spend the day at camp, while the guys break every rule in the wilderness guidebook and manage to get back to their site with the mystery of the beast solved and their dads none the wiser. The boys are so heavily stereotyped, and the fathers such paragons of parental embarrassment and cluelessness, that readers never fully invest in their reality, settling instead for a scripted series of antics and a bucket of mild gross-out humor. That might be all that’s needed, though, for some undemanding entertainment to fill in the summer reading log before Labor Day.

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