Hostile Territory

by Paul Greci

“Six days later and we’ve got four more shallow graves all in a row next to us where we buried Theo. We’ve built rock cairns at the head of each grave.

‘Why hasn’t anybody come?’ Derrick asks. ‘My dad would be on this in a heartbeat if I didn’t show up on time. If we all didn’t show up.’

‘We don’t know what it’s like anywhere but here,’ Shannon says. ‘Maybe there was widespread damage. And mass casualties.’

I point at the shallow graves and say, ‘There’s no reason to stay anymore. I mean, if I thought there was still a chance that someone was alive, I’d keep digging.’ I feel my eyes getting hot. ‘We need to leave this place.'”

Ratings & Reviews

Book Grade: B

Survival stories can be thrilling – fighting nature and yourself to beat the odds is compelling and inspiring. There have been a lot of great survival books published recently, so I thought that I knew what I was getting into with this, but I had no idea.

It starts off simply enough – four teenagers at an extended outdoor camp have to make it back to camp after a devastating earthquake. When they return to camp, though, they realize that their entire base has been destroyed and they will need to trek out on their own, aiming for the nearest town, but really having no sense of where they are going in the Alaskan wilderness. I appreciated the cleverness of this, but struggled with the writing. Everything is in present tense in this novel and all of the teens seem slightly self-centered and petty. As they march through the forest, the campers encounter everything they don’t want to see – mosquitoes, moose, rock slides, and more – but also cause problems. These are totally expected. When they set a forest fire that engulfs a grove of trees, but mysteriously puts itself out, that is not expected. The author’s focus on Josh finding himself drawn to how cute Brooke is (in the middle of trying to survive in the woods) is also unrealistic.

Just as the teens are on the brink of giving up, they find something that changes their attitude and will either save them or kill them. This is when the story shifts from a survival adventure to a dystopian novel. None of what is described seems entirely realistic, although, it is supposed to be rooted in modern political decisions. With Alaska’s fate in the hands of these four teenagers, I absolutely had to root for them, but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t a bit annoying at times.

Rather than find this book to be the compelling read that I had hoped for, I found it to be an easy, unrealistic story. It definitely caters more to guys than girls, and there are some interesting survival lessons to be learned, but by and large, this took to many liberties and strayed too far from what I expected for this to be a book that I love.

Movie Rating: PG

Hostile Territory has lots going on – a wilderness survival story, an end of days dystopian tale, a teen attraction romance, and a coming of age story. As such, you might expect lots of language and lots of dark scenes. Fortunately, this is pretty mild. There are a few swear words, but the language is pretty clean overall. There are two kisses in the entire book, so no saucy romance will be found here. There is no real violence, although there is a discussion of guns (one of which is aimed toward a bear); there is a large scene, however, involving a bombing and the very-real awareness that people could die from the explosion.

This book is ideal for readers anywhere from 13 to 18 because it is fast-paced, has lots of dialogue, and objectionable content is limited.

Would I Buy This for My Library: Probably

Hostile Territory is not necessarily my perfect book recommendation, but for students who are into survival stories, military adventures, outdoor exploration, and more, this is a great story. The chapters are very brief and the narrator – Josh – is a typical teenage boy with a bit of arrogance, a bit of stubbornness, and a bit of a crush on a girl. Each of the 4 teens has something unique to offer the group, and collectively, they make a good team, and that will appeal to a wider group of readers. As an adult I struggled with the odd writing style and the jumpiness int he plot, but many readers won’t mind the unique approach to the novel. The unexpected angle at the end will also appeal to readers who put in the time to get to that part of the story.

Summary:

The summer wilderness camp was supposed to be fun and challenging, but when Josh, Derrick, Brooke, and Shannon are on their solo camp adventure, and earthquake rips through the Alaskan outdoors and leaves them stranded. So beings Hostile Territory which focuses on four teens trying to find their way to safety only to learn that the world as they knew it has been destroyed.

With nothing more than the supplies on their back, the four teens search for survivors, then attempt to trek to civilization. Combating wild animals, forest fires, injuries, bee stings, and starvation, these four very different individuals must rely on each other to survive the most difficult time of their lives. Conflicts with the wild pale in comparison to some of the conflicts with each other, and just when they think that things cannot get any harder, they realize that they will need to take on new responsibilities to help save humanity and civilization as we know it.

With twists and turns, this story is part survival tale, part adventure story, and part dystopian epic. Hostile Territory shows four teens being pushed to their breaking point only to have even more asked of them. Camping will never be the same again.

Book Talk Questions:

  1. What does Josh write about in his journal at the beginning of the book? How do those thoughts transform over the course of his time outdoors?
  2. How does Josh lose his shoe? What is done to fix the problem?
  3. Why does Brooke act the way that she does? What does she reveal to Josh?
  4. The teens begin heading in a certain direction after Derrick sees something move in the woods. What is it that he saw and what do they find when they get there?
  5. What does the group realize happened to Alaska after the earthquake? What do they agree to do to help the situation?
  6. Who comes to meet them at the end of the story? Why does it help that all four of them were in this together?

A Perfect Read for Fans Of…

  • Surviving Bear Island by Paul Greci
  • The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
  • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
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