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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart

Title: There Will Be Bears
Author: Ryan Gebhart
Publisher: Candlewick
Pub. Date: April 22, 2014
Genre: MG
Rec. Age Level: 8+

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In Ryan Gebhart's debut MG novel, THERE WILL BE BEARS, 13-year old Tyson can't wait for the elk hunting trip he and his grandfather have been planning. Tyson will finally get to go hunting and spend a weekend in the wilderness with Gramps, who's h. hands down the coolest grandfather around. Shortly after he and Gramps guzzle prune juice to clean out their systems in preparation for the trip, his parents break the news: the hunting trip is cancelled. To make matters worse, Gramps is sick and being moved to home in a whole different state.Tyson is stuck with his dreams shattered, an ex-best friend who's a totally yamhole, and some unexpected, difficult truths about his family weighing him down. Feeling angry and betrayed, he throws caution to the wind when Gramps suggests pulling a fast one on Tyson's parents and going on the hunting trip as planned, despite multiple reports of a dangerous grizzly bear in the area and his grandfather's deteriorating health. Will Tyson and Gramps make it through the weekend alive?

I have no doubt that middle school boys will love this book and I'm fairly confident that many girls will too. I know middle school me would have loved it. Part of the appeal for me was how much Gramps reminds me a lot of my own grandfather, prune juice guzzling and big game hunting included.

Growing up in the Midwest, specifically NE Michigan, hunting has always been a pretty big part of my life. Hunting with a parent or grandfather is as much of a rite of passage in my world as it is in Tyson's, so I could relate to his heartbreak when his trip with Gramps is cancelled. His determination to be able to shoot and clean his kill on his own - and his hesitation when that moment comes - are all important, teachable moments during a fragile time in Tyson's life.

Though Tyson's relationship with Gramps drives much of the novel's action, I also appreciated his relationship with his sort of ex-best friend. This friend, Bright, has made some new friends and he's been spending less and less time with Tyson. I love that, though Tyson is hurt by Bright's actions and behavior, he's mature enough to realize what's motivating Bright and to, eventually, forgive him.

I'm looking forward to more great MG from Gebhart!


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