And Then I Read: THE BIG WANDER

© Will Hobbs.

I have yet to read a Will Hobbs book for teens that I didn’t enjoy, but this one is more surprising than some, with a plot that takes interesting twists and turns through both a physical landscape and a summer of growth for the hero, Clay Lancaster.

It begins as a summer road trip for 14-year-old Clay and his older brother Mike through the deserts and canyons of the American southwest, traveling in Mike’s aged pickup from place to place, making a few friends, in search of their missing Uncle Clay, an ex-rodeo star. Before long they’re stuck in a trading post in Monument Valley, their truck stolen, with a pack-mule left in exchange. Mike heads home by bus in disgust, but young Clay convinces Mike to let him stay on at the trading post, where he’s found a job. Once Mike is gone, Clay continues to search for his uncle, getting further and further from civilization with the help of his new friend, the pack mule, a small stray dog, and friends he makes, including some local Indians who know his uncle well. In fact, the tribe adopts the boy for a while, introducing him to their ways and customs.

Clay’s journey gets even stranger when he heads off on the trail of his uncle into Colorado, finding him stuck in a small town jail for trying to round up and remove wild mustangs before they can be caught and slaughtered for feed by the government. New allies in this town include a girl with a horse of her own who rescues young Clay from some quicksand, and they soon become fast friends, and maybe something more. But what can two kids do about Uncle Clay in jail and the impending destruction of the last local herd of mustangs?

Great read, highly recommended.

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