Okay, blogglings, be amazed! This is NOT a young-adult book! (gasp) I know. I’m sort of nearly maybe almost entering the adult world. But of course, the adult books that I like are…narrated by 5-year-olds.
Thank you Random House Australia for the ARC! The Bear by Claire Cameron hit shelves on February 14th, 2014.
A powerfully suspenseful story narrated by a young girl who must fend for herself and her little brother after a brutal bear attack.
While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, 300 pounds of fury, is attacking the family’s campsite, pouncing on her parents as prey.
At her dying mother’s faint urging, Anna manages to get her brother into the family’s canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe dumps the two children on the edge of the woods, and the sister and brother must battle hunger, the elements, and a dangerous wilderness, we see Anna’s heartbreaking love for her family–and her struggle to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe anymore.
Told in the honest, raw voice of five-year-old Anna, this is a riveting story of love, courage, and survival.
As soon as I saw the synopsis of this book, I needed it. Why?
a) I write scary books narrated by small people but aimed at older readers
b) I love survival stories (Hatchet by Gary Paulson, anyone?)
c) Freaky stories are. the. best.
This was both freaky and well written and…did I mention it was freaky?
Also: I’m never camping again. Which is slightly illogical, because I live in Australia and we don’t even have bears. But still.
Characters? The book is narrated by 5-year-old Anna Whyte. A lot of the story rests on her style of narration — which includes things a 5-year-old will concentrate on: cookies and her stuffed bear. And don’t worry, the irony of her favourite stuffed animal being a bear? Talk about torturing the reader. Anna was pretty advanced cognitively developed for a 5-year-old. That saying, I don’t think she acted unrealistically or out of character.
But then we have her nearly-3-year-old brother “Stick”. I struggled with his character because I have a 3-year-old nephew and Stick was way too advanced for a toddler (particularly a boy. And I’m not being sexist here! It’s just true that little boys are often…babies for a lot longer). He had his own “language” which only Anna fully understood. But he strung together full sentences. He didn’t cry a lot. Aaaand…he slept on command. When a little kid is getting “beyond it” (too tired, too hungry, too cranky) they end up screaming one word: NO. I’m a babysitter so I also know this for a fact for lots of 3-year-olds.
Stick just didn’t seem 2-years-old.
The writing is pretty thick and clumpy. It’s a very definite style. The paragraphs are long. The sentences are long. It takes 100% concentration, which I confess isn’t my strong point. (Come on. Don’t we all suddenly find ourselves dreaming about cheesecake while we read? At some point?)
But the style…oh gosh, the style is amazing! I was so absorbed in the story and Anna’s perspective. She’s incredibly written! While I can understand why this book wouldn’t be for everyone, I’m totally enthralled with books that step out of the “norm” and try daring styles and voices. If they pull it off, it’s unbelievable. And The Bear totally pulled it off.
I was freaked out! The description? Anna describes things as she sees them and how they relate to her life. How she described the after-bear-attack scene…can I scream now or later? Anna describes one thing, but we (the readers) really know what’s happening. It’s like reading a book in two languages! At face-value it’s simple (the camp is a mess), underneath we know the “wetness” is blood and the “whispers” of the mother means she’s dying not sleeping.
My only disappointment is the plot. I thought there’d be more survival. But a lot of it is Anna reflecting on what life was like back at home. That’s cute and cool and all…but I expected a survival/horror story. The jello-story was cute but didn’t really apply.
All in all, my heart broke for Anna and Stick. Someone rescue these babies and take them home!
If you never really liked camping and you want an excuse to avoid it forever? Read this book. You’ll be cured. Beware the bear. And pack cookies.
Cait has never seen a bear. She never wants to see a bear. She likes Disney’s movie Brave except for the bear. Why do children have stuffed toy bears anyway? Who said, “Hey, let’s commercialise a predator for kids to cuddle!” What were they thinking exactly? On another topic, she’s reading BLINDSIDED and thinking about cheesecake.