Out of Range puts three warring sisters into a life-or-death situation that will destroy their bond—and perhaps their lives—or restore it.
Out of Range by Heidi Lang. Simon & Schuster (Margaret K. Elderberry Books), 2022, 301 pages.
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 10-14
Abby, Emily, and Ollie (ages 14, 12, and 9 respectively) belong to a stable family with a stay-at-home dad and a successful career mom. They’ve always gotten along, up until the time Abby developed her first crush and a circle of middle-school friends. Now she no longer has time for little sisters and family traditions. After getting stiffed by sis too many times, the younger two cook up a little revenge plan—just for “fun.” But tit-for-tat soon gets out of hand in an escalating conflict, until the parents decide their trio would benefit from a stay at Camp Unplugged, a wilderness experience in the Idaho mountains.
For all three, nature hikes and evening campfires—without phones!—are torture. But that’s the only thing they’re agreed on, and the war continues. Honey in a sleeping bag is the last straw for their counselor Dana, who assigns the three to their own special wilderness hike under her supervision. At Abby’s instigation, they ditch Dana and set off on their own, intending to take the nearest shortcut back to camp. They should have known better, as shortcuts are not what they seem, and before long the girls are in serious danger from fire and flood, furred beast and insect. Suddenly, they are dependent on each other for their very survival.
A walk on the wild side
Camp Unplugged and the calamitous hike forms the main thread, with the sibling conflict told in flashbacks. Telling a story this way is trickier than it looks, but the author carries it off smoothly and readers should have no trouble with the constant shifting. The escalating conflict is well-told also, as the girls have numerous opportunities to bury the hatchet, and even the inclination to do so, except that the war has taken on a life of its own. The theme of forbearance and forgiveness is unmistakable.
Though the wilderness experience will have readers on the edge of their seats, I found it a bit much. Such perils do occur; in her author note, Heidi Lamb recalls a similar experience on a hiking trip with her husband. The pile-on of catastrophe started to seem a bit gimmicky and jarring, almost overwhelming the theme. Nevertheless, all but the most sensitive readers will hang in for the ride.
Overall Rating: 3.75
Worldview/moral value: 3.5
Artistic/literary value: 4
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Also at Redeemed Reader:
Reviews: Survival-tale junkies will relish Terror at Bottle Creek, Across the Desert, If We Survive, and When We Were Lost—not to mention the granddaddy of them all, Hatchet.
Reviews: Don’t let wilderness disaster happen to you! Outdoor School and How to Be a World Explorer will help you be prepared.
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