Me, Mercedes Bennion? Working for the US Forest Service? I’ve never thought of myself as the outdoorsy, hard-working type. But one quick glance at those mouth-watering forest rangers and oh, baby, sign this seventeen-year-old up for a whole summer of fresh air, mountains and starry, starry nights!
I think it’s my own fear of insects and sleeping outside that makes me take a second look at YA books that come along about summer camps. I actually was a Girl Scout and did camp successfully, but one year some sort of phobia set in and that was it and I haven’t set foot in a tent since then. I still love reading about them though – I love the friendships that develop over the summer and there are always a million stories to be told.
My Life as a Lumberjack begins with Mercedes “Merck” “Benz” Bennion – she prefers Benz – and her best friend Conor Perry showing up for duty for their new summer jobs with the U.S. Forest Service Youth Conservation Corps. Expecting nerdy dweeb phone recruiter Norm, Benz is blown away when Norse God Norm of the U.S. Forest Service shows up to gather the campers and escort them to camp. The kids are all divided into groups and each group is sent to a different area where something needs to be done each week, setting up new camps and heading home on the weekends.
Since the action was with Benz’s group, the detail the author gave to the jobs they did was really a blast to read. From building corrals, tarring troughs and seeding, I could see it all. I had the best time actually in the camps, when everyone sat around making s’mores, wanting to punch certain people, figuring out how to take showers and mooning over the opposite sex. I think I actually learned how to make an omelet in a plastic bag in boiling water.
Benz was a complete nut and gets in the most ridiculous situations. She’s kind of bratty – I think mostly without meaning to. She has absolutely no filter because she’s just that confident. She flirts a lot with Norm and Dan, Dan the Mountain Man, another Forest Service Ranger she meets and is completely oblivious to situations with other boys going on around her. She’s a serious klutz, which I admire as a fellow member of the Ridiculously Clumsy Club. Conor was absolutely adorable in the way only a jealous guy BFF can be. He’s cranky most of the time, which made me want to hug him. I just love guys like that! The members of Benz’s crew are all awesome, especially Adrienne who turns out to be a little spitfire, yummy Matt who’s always around when Benz is in trouble and the hilariously obnoxious twins David and Keith. I was flipping the pages just to see what on earth these kids were going to be doing next.
It killed me, but I had to take a trim to my rating because there were a couple of places where my credulity was stretched just a little too thin. I had a lot of fun with the story and was willing to let a whole lot of things fly in the name of a great story because they made me laugh, but let’s just say some things read a bit like a teenage girl’s fantasy. Not that that’s a bad thing. It also ended a little more abruptly than I’d have liked. I wanted more time to savor Benz’s happiness and maybe see some plans for later. I didn’t want the story to end.
This was just flat-out fun and diverting and would be a perfect light summer read. It would take some heavy persuasion to get me to go hiking, let alone camping, so it was great to hang out with the YCC. I loved the camaraderie that developed in Benz’s crew and the way their group and Conor’s turned into a big dysfunctional family by the end of the summer. As the summer came to a close, I had to believe everyone was coming back next year and they’d fall back into their friendships because it was just that good.
It doesn’t matter how many times I remind myself not to judge a book by its cover, I still get a little revved up by a pretty one. Those cute purple hiking boots had me hoping for a fun story and My Life as a Lumberjack or How I Fell for the Wrong Guy(s) delivered one. I loved it from beginning to end, along with every scratch, bug bite, swoon, undercooked pancake, bedhead, blister, leaking tent and camp crush in between. Sequel, sequel!
My Rating: B+
About the author:
Sara V. Olds has been telling stories for as long as she can remember. One of her favorite memories is of unfolding a tale for friends while they were all bundled in sleeping bags watching a comet shower in the Uintah Mountains.
Mother of three: Large, Medium and Small, she welcomes her newest role, that of mother-in-law.
Life has taken her from thither to yon and back again—she’s moved 22 times during her marriage. She breathes to travel. Longs to fulfill a lifelong dream of owning a horse. Is an addictive reader. Enjoys swimming, skiing, violin and movies. Wonders if she’ll ever get to SCUBA dive again. And has found a calling that fulfills her in ways she never could have imagined—teaching history to—wait for it—8th Graders.
Her stories consume her. There’s nothing she’d rather do than spend all day, all night and the next day conversing with her latest set of characters. History, adventure, action, romance, humor. Adults, YA and kids. Yep, she does it all. Looking for something to enjoy on a quiet rainy afternoon? Or wanting a pulse-pounding, stay up all night turning pages adventure? Or a you’ve-GOT-to-be-kidding romp? You’ll find them in her pages.
Connect with Sara:
Sara is holding a tour-wide giveaway for 5 ebook copies of My Life as a Lumberjack (open to international entries). Good luck!