All Jack ever wanted was a nice, peaceful camping trip and some time off from school. What he got was anything but that. Sure, he arrived at the campsite with his mom. Yes, he was on spring vacation. Sure, they set up camp and went to sleep without any problems. But come morning, everything went wrong: Jack woke up alone. His mother abandoned him. Jack can’t go to the authorities - he can’t explain why his mother ran off. That would raise too many questions. His mother’s done this before. She’ll be back eventually. Right?
This is an excellent novel. The plot is fast-paced and the story is gripping - I had a hard time putting down this book!
The characters are life-like and believable. Jack, while being a child, seems more mature than his mother. He understands what is acceptable in society, and also comprehends that when his mother goes off the deep end, he has a chance of being separated from her by the authorities. He understands the implications of bad actions; he strives to always be good, and to help his mother with her mental problems. He can’t completely control his mother, however, and she does get a little loopy at times. This is the first time that she has left Jack anywhere, but he understands that it’s up to him to get back home and find his mother, before she says or does something stupid and gets them separated for good. Jack has been separated from his mother before; the government found out about his mother taking him out of school for no reason at all, and other not-quite-normal things she’d done with him regarding school and care-taking. When that happened, Jack was taken away from his mother and sent him to the only other family he had - his loving grandmother. While Jack is eventually returned to his mother, it's clear that there's a huge rift between his mother and grandmother.
It is because of all this that Jack is my favorite character - he understands that one must deal with what one is given. He is mature for his age, and he figures out very interesting ways of staying alive while he’s on his own. His mother and grandmother, likewise, are very believable and life-like; their actions, while not always justified and good, were understandable and something I’d expect a real person to do.
The setting is excellent. The author makes the state of Maine (along with some other various states in the USA) come to life; having never visited there myself, after reading this novel, I feel like I’ve been on vacation there for a week. While descriptive, the author is not very wordy - he states what needs to be stated in an clear, clean, and concise way.
Overall, this is a fun and heartfelt story and an emotional journey with a young boy who only wants to find his mother, but is afraid of letting anyone know he’s alone. This is a book I will cherish and keep in my collection for a long, long time.