Pages: 221 pages
Finished: Mar. 29, 2010
First Published: 1999
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: YA, historical fiction, adventure
When the story broke on the streets of New York, it took off like a wildfire on a windy day.
Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.
Reason for Reading: Read aloud to my son as part of our history curriculum.
Summary: Fifteen-year-old Jason Hawthorn is on the other side of the country when he hears of the Klondike Gold Rush. The only adventurous one in the family he high tails it back to Seattle to convince his older brothers to stake him with their inheritance so he can go North. When he arrives home, he's astounded to find that his brothers were one of the first to leave for the Klondike and they left him a letter saying they had added his inheritance to complete their outfit and have made him a complete partner. With only $10 in his pocket Jason follows his brothers, trying to catch up to them as he goes. Along the way the reader learns the glorious and gruesome, adventurous, heroic history of the Klondike Gold Rush; completely rampant with lawlessness until you were on Canadian soil where the Mounties ruled with an iron fist.
Comments: I've always wanted to read Will Hobbs. I've always been attracted to teen boy's survival in the wilderness tales and many of his books seem to have that theme. This is the first book I've read by him and I was riveted, as was my son. We have the sequel here and my ds has requested we read it right away. The writing is fabulous, the detail is excruciating and the history is well researched.
As we follow Jason on his trip North he encounters adventures and hardships one after the other and the reader becomes excited with him, scared, worried and sad with him. The details of some parts are quite brutal. The author held nothing back in describing the details of White Pass and why it became nicknamed Dead Horse Pass. There are some brutal episodes in the story but there is also humour and a sense of accomplishment throughout. Due to my son's younger age, 9yo, I did edit on the fly as I was reading aloud somewhat, in extreme cases, for example there is a part that is very emotional involving dogs and at the end Jason turns around and observes the man has "blown his brains out". I said "he shot himself" as the scene had already affected the 9yo to the intended point. Therefore, I recommend the book for readers eleven and over, and as a read aloud for youngers.
It took the 9yo a little while to get into the book; it has a high vocabulary and no pictures but once Jason actually got started on his adventure his interest level piqued until he became very involved in Jason's plight and there was one point which made him shed some tears. I highly recommend this gripping story and while written by an American, it is a fascinating piece of Canadian historical fiction.