Review of Never Say Die by Will Hobbs
Overview from www.bn.com:
When the motto of your village is “never say die,” you have a lot to live up to. . . .
At home in Canada’s Arctic, Nick Thrasher is an accomplished Inuit hunter at fifteen. About to bring home a caribou for his ailing grandfather, Nick loses the meat to a fearsome creature never before seen in the wild. It’s half grizzly, half polar bear. Experts will soon be calling it a “grolar bear.”
Returning to his village, Nick receives a letter from the half-brother he’s never met. A former Grand Canyon river guide, Ryan Powers is now a famous wildlife photographer. He’ll soon be coming to Nick’s part of the world to raft the remote Firth River in search of huge herds of migrating caribou. Ryan also wants to learn what Inuit hunters are saying about climate change in the Arctic. He invites Nick to come along and help him find the caribou.
Barely down the river, disaster strikes. Nick and Ryan are both thrown into the freezing river and find themselves under a ceiling of solid ice. With nothing but the clothes on his back and the knife on his hip, Nick is up against it in a world of wolves, caribou, and grizzlies. All the while, the monstrous grolar bear stalks the land.
Though this book was short (about 140 pages on my nook), I read it mostly to fill in the gaps between my usual fare and of course because it was a Free Friday offering. I thought the story line might have some promise but what really sold me was the description of it as being a kind of modern-day version of Call of the Wild by Jack London.
Nick is our half-white, half-Inuit narrator and is approximately fifteen years old if I did my math right when I calculated his age based on the age difference between himself and his half-brother who is also a main character in this story.
His troubles start with the appearance of the so-called grolar bear which is a half-grizzly, half-polar bear combination creature. The bear is ferocious, large, and downright evil and nearly kills him. He pops up a few more times again before the book is over.
Then he gets a letter from Ryan (the half-brother I mentioned earlier) who explains to him that he is taking a trip up to Nick’s neck of the wood to ply his trade. He is a wildlife photographer and writer. He wants to research the rumor that caribou are dying out due to climate change. He is also interested in the grolar bear though it is not the main point of his research. He hoped to convince Nick to tag along on his expedition that will take them to the Firth River and hopefully the caribou.
Nick agrees to go with him despite his misgivings and some of his differences of opinion with his only brother. Only interference from his dying grandfather persuades him in the end.
The trip does end up being wild, wonderful and scary all at the same time but along the way he develops a respect and camaraderie with his brother that along with their discoveries make it a trip of the lifetime.
I am not really sure that it compares all that favorably with the Jack London classic that I mentioned earlier but it was still an interesting read. It was not as one-sided on the issue of climate change as it thought it would be. There is some respect for the Inuit way of life as well as Ryan’s views. Of course I suspect that the author is leaning towards the environmentalist position but at least he doesn’t portray hunters as the menacing evil of the Arctic like I thought he would when I started reading.
This is also appropriate for younger readers though perhaps not too young. There is some wildlife type violence in here after all. I think probably fifth grade or above might enjoy it but I am no expert.
I also enjoyed it though it is not likely to become one of my favorites. Still it was better than what I was initially expecting.