I Have a Bad Feeling About This

256p. Sourcebooks/Fire. Mar. 2014. pap. $8.99. ISBN 9781402284557.
Gr 9 Up—Humor and hijinks are the name of the survival game for 16-year-old Henry Lambert. He is the consummate geeky gamer, and, according to his father, Henry's masculinity could use a boost. Thus, Henry finds himself shipped off to Strongwoods Survival Camp alongside his similarly nerdy best friend, Randy, and three other boys. The camp director, Max, is the typical drill instructor doling out challenges and punishments to whip the boys into fighting shape for the Strongwoods Survival Games. The antics are increased even more when a man named Mr. Grand and his thugs show up to collect on a debt and the boys find themselves having to put their survival skills (or lack thereof) to good use. A girl from the neighboring music camp adds a dash of romantic drama. Readers immediately learn that the events at Strongwoods are later made into an action film straight out of Hollywood; the story is told by alternating between Henry attending the movie's premiere and the book version of what actually happened. While the plot and characters are fairly predictable, it works. Purposefully bad wilderness survival tips at the end of each chapter add a bit of sarcastic comedy. The short chapters, writing style, and humor make this a good choice for reluctant readers. Give this one to fans of the Home Alone movies and readers who love caper stories.—Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Hudson Library & Historical Society, OH
Jeff Strand hooks readers with slapstick comedy as the Strongwoods Survival campers attempt a variety of activities, such as archery and animal trapping. Later, tension builds when they find themselves in a real life-or-death situation. The dynamic between the campers, most of whom have no outdoor survival experience, and their gruff counselor, Max, who stomps on a camper’s iPhone to make a point about following orders, is highly entertaining. Absurd dialogue is often laugh-out-loud funny. During a shelter-building competition, for instance, Randy asks if Henry knows how to build a lean-to. Henry replies, “I can’t even visualize a lean-to . . . I’m picturing something, but I think it’s a teepee.” Cutaways from the main plot—including mock-noir gangster scenes and flash forwards to the premier of a blockbuster film made about the campers’ adventures—allow Strand to pack in tongue-in-cheek humor and temper seriousness with more outrageous twists.

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