I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dan vs. Nature by Don Calame
Published by Candlewick Press on April 12th 2016
Format: Physical ARC
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Dan Weekes has two dreams in life: to become a famous graphic novelist and to one day muster the courage to ask Erin Reilly out on a date. Dan’s mom, however, has just one goal: to date every man in the state of California until she finally finds her Prince Charming.
When Dan comes home to find a Hugh Jackman look-alike in his kitchen, he’s prepared to write off this mountain-man-slash-dentist as another soon-to-be-ex. But then his mom drops a bomb: she and Hugh—er, Hank—are engaged, and she’s sending her “two favorite men” on a survivalist camping trip in the wilds of Idaho to “bond.”
But Dan knows that it’s only a matter of time till Hank shows his true—flawed—colors, so together with his nerdy, germophobe best friend, Charlie, Dan launches Operation Torment Crusade—a series of increasingly gross and embarrassing pranks they’ll pull on Hank until he breaks like a twig. But the boys didn’t count on a hot girl joining their trip or a man-hungry bear stalking their every move. How can Dan possibly scare off Hank when his very survival now depends on him?
Dan vs Nature is a hilarious novel with plenty of raunchy humour that kept me laughing out loud. It’s rare to find a novel that actually catches me off guard and makes me laugh in delight, but Dan vs Nature, as the cover promises, is an “outrageously funny and wickedly raunchy romp in the woods”.
In terms of novels, Dan vs Nature is probably one of the more “out there” Novels that deviates from my traditional female lead characters, romance and intrigue – but it deviates in a good way. What starts out as a story about a boy trying to thwart his mother’s suitor with a less-than-devilish prank plot, becomes a hilarious and genius tale of acceptance and growing up, complete with a heart warming ending to leave a reader with a smile on their face. Dan vs Nature is a ligh-hearted novel that will appeal to readers from all back grounds and age ranges – a particularly impressive feat – with some fantastic surprises. At no point in this novel was I bored nor was I aware that Calame was following a well-trodden plot in an already saturated Young Adult novel market.
I particularly loved how Calame wrote a tale about wilderness survival from the point of view of people with various issues with wilderness and daily living. Charlie is afraid of contracting serious diseases from internalized conditions, Penelope just wants to get through the weekend without her mother embarrassing her and Dan just wants to get rid of Hank, who just wants Dan to accept him as a potential father figure. During their adventure each character faces their fears, reveals secrets and in the end conquer some very real issues. Not bad for a novel written for 16 year old boys (or at least more than I was expecting).
My only issue with this novel was that over use of words of which most 16 year old kids probably have never been exposed. The dictionary worthy, spelling bee words used by (best friend) were particularly challenging and hindered the novel’s realism a tad. Granted, this intellectual exercise and witty banter only added to the appeal for myself, but was a bit out of place for a novel written for teenagers. In retrospect, perhaps the use of challenging and unique words is a writing device the author utilized to not only keep adults interested in the novel, but also to develop young reader’s vocabularies (something I definitely support).
In the end I loved Dan vs Nature for its fresh ideas, unique plot that also followed the cliché acceptance of a new father figure, but didn’t go over board with the message of family.
This book would appeal to readers who enjoy outdoorsy literature, contemporary young adult novels and novels that hark back to the early days of young adult before the market was over come with “YA for adults”. Dan vs Nature is worth a read if you’re feeling down or want a good, childish laugh. A wonderful read for all ages.