Switchback by Danika Stone

morgarelibrare's review

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*Read at work for review for ROYAL*

I had hoped this one would be good, because I liked Danika Stone’s novel, All The Feels, but this book was definitely not for me.

Ash and Vale are best friends who go on a school mandated trip to the woods/mountains that is required for P.E. class in order to graduate. The book starts off badly with a letter from the teacher organizing the trip with rules and regulations for the trip, one stating that there are absolutely no phones or tablets allowed from students. Now, I get that you don’t want the kids to have their faces glued to a screen when they’re supposed to be learning something, but on this particular field trip, it seems irresponsible and reckless to leave the kids without any form of communication. It’s just asking for trouble…so of course trouble comes knocking.

Ash and Vale get separated from their class almost immediately and are forced to survive on their own, navigating the tasks of finding food and water, building a shelter, and protecting themselves from predator animals, like bears and cougars. Instead of sticking around in the spot where they got separated, so that the adults can double back and find them when they realize they’re missing, they venture off, deeper into the mountains and get lost for days.

I love a good survival story, but this just seemed overly dramatic, very juvenile, and the two kept treating their situation like it was a game of Dungeons and Dragons. There was also a lot of stereotypical high school drama both before and after the two get stranded. Ash and Vale are outcasts who get teased and bullied a lot for pretty much no reason, and that’s a good topic to analyze if it’s done correctly, but this just felt overly cliché in the way it was handled by Ash and Vale and their antagonists.

The one redeeming quality this book has is representation. Vale is aromantic and asexual, so a romance between her and Ash is not something that happens, they’re just really good buddies. At the start of the book, Vale isn’t out to her friends or family, and while stranded in the wilderness, she comes out to Ash, and the two talk about it in a positive light.

Aside from the LGBTQIA rep, this book was a big bummer for me, and just had me rolling my eyes at the absurdity at the majority of the situations. I think maybe it will appeal better to a much younger audience or those that are more interested in cliché high school drama.

jay_mack9712's review

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This was such a treat to read! It was a roller coaster from start to finish and Danika almost made me nervous that the kids were not going to make it out alive !! I really enjoyed the setting of the book as i myself have visited Waterton Park on many occasions and it was a pleasure to read about it and have it describe by Danika in such a manner.

The friendship in this book is so precious and so important ! To have it be a book on just friendship and nothing romantic about it is so refreshing to read and a really nice change of pace! I am always looking forward to reading her next book and seeing what wonderful adventures she has to offer us next time !

libraryjen's review

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Switchback is the first novel by Danica Stone that I've read, but it won't be the last. The two main characters are teens on a school PE field trip hiking in the Canadian Rockies. Vale is a social outcast, the target of bullies. She's smart and resourceful, but still learning how to advocate for herself. She self-describes as aro-ace (aromantic/asexual), which is a term I had not heard before reading the book. The discussion of this was tastefully done, giving just enough information for the reader to understand, but no graphic detail. It came across as believable and was appropriately handled for the target age group. The other main character, Ash, is Vale's best friend and has been since elementary school. Ash is a hard-core gamer who spends most of his free time in the basement playing various multi-player online games. He's also a bit of a slacker and a clown. The reader gets the feeling that he could easily be the target of the bullies as well, except he has developed a coping strategy of self-deprecating humor that shrugs everything off. There is no romance in this story to distract from the survival story, it's just platonic friendship. (Hallelujah! I love a good YA story that does NOT revolve around romance).

When Ash and Vale get separated from the rest of the group, they become hopelessly lost in country wild enough for elk, cougars, and grizzlies. Vale is a hiker with some experience, but nothing as primitive as what they're up against now. Ash has no clue. Still, it will be up to the two of them to help each other survive.

The characters were flawed and relatable, but also realistic. The drama could be a bit over the top at times, but teenage drama usually is. The book was well researched and well written and I will definitely be buying it for my library and recommending it to my patrons.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this ebook from in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

justenjoy's review

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"The universe has a really sick sense of humor."

peyton_'s review

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This is a good story. The characters were realistic and it was nice to see an aro-ace protagonist. The ending was a little unclear and could have been described a little better to make it easier to understand. It was really nice to read about an area I knew. It made it more real (and also makes me not want to get lost in Waterton). I really enjoyed it and recommend it to people who want to read an adventure story.

diamondxgirl's review

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You think you’ve met authors who put their characters through everything and then you meet Danika + Switchback and learn how very untrue that is!

kiki86's review

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This was such a good book! Such a page turner! I even lent my book out to 4 friends and told them they have to read it!

thursdaymouse's review

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This book was a departure from what I usually read in YA, I am not even sure if I have ever read a survival story that is realistic! That being said, I do live in the Rocky Mountain region of Canada that the author describes, and I felt that she was very adept at portraying the region and the obstacles you might encounter while in the wild here.

The pace of this book is quick, I loved the various social aspects and challenges a teen might face in high school and dealing with a**hole kids (pardon the harshness, but I have a teen who struggles with other very insensitive kids out there who bully and this struck a nerve, plus I deal with adult bullies, as well. Those kids sometimes grow up to be bullies) as well as opening my mind to new realities that occur that didn't when I was a teen. Being able to identify, name and own your sexual identity (or asexual one in this case). :)

I read some of the earlier reviews and as usual, I disagree with a lot of the low ratings. Some of the reasons were unfounded in my opinion. For instance, someone mentioned that the teens wouldn't be joking around in this situation being lost in the woods in such a punishing environment. I think Danika Stone did a great job of navigating the ups and downs of the teen's experience. It was scary and they were reacting to that fear immediately from the first day of their isolation from the group. But eventually, you have to insert lightheartedness into very daunting situations to help with your mental and emotional survival. Then human being does this in order for their nervous system not to be overwhelmed with the truth of impending demise. They reacted when necessary in the appropriate moments, during the downtime when they had to distract themselves they had to joke around. If you did read the book, the characters do talk about how time is moving very slowly and they struggled with that. Maybe they should ruminate throughout the whole book and bore us to tears?!!

I think the book had a nice rise and fall, enough action for me and a definite character growth from both the main protagonists in the end. It was a very satisfying book, within the confines of the length a YA novel should be, Danika did everything she was supposed to do, and entertained and educated all the while. (I guess that is my answer to the few 1 and 2* ratings - awfully unfair IMO)

Many thanks to the author for the great read!!

rues_human's review

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Captivating storytelling, as always. I handed this one to my 15 year-old when I was done with it. I got it back the next day. "Did you read it?" "Mom, I finished it before lunch. It was *good.*"

Well done, Stone, well done.

macaronis_telegraph's review

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TL;DR: this book made me extremely frustrated because anyone who's worked in outdoor education knows that nothing like this would've been allowed to happen in real life. There are so many precautions we are required to take that the teachers in this book neglected even think about.

Like, I love a good wilderness survival story, and that's why I picked this book up, but...
It just killed my suspension of disbelief.

Sure, things can happen on school trips, but not like this.

What I liked about this book:

I found enjoyment in the angst and tension of Ash's injuries and the delight of Ash and Vale's platonic love. Those two things made it more than just one star.

What I didn't like about it?

First, some of the characters didn't seem to talk like real people (mainly Mike, and Ash at the beginning). It was like, I dunno, a weird guess at how teens talk.

Also, I'm no expert, but I'm certain many of the animal behaviors were incorrect. Like, that bear at the end attacking with no reason? And I'm pretty certain you ain't ever gonna find three cougars in the same area. Those guys are incredibly territorial, and their territories are huge. So for Vale to see one and then here two more in the same morning? I dunno about that guys.

But my biggest gripe?

I've worked in outdoor education, and I can tell you, there was so much wrong in how the trip was handled in the first place, whether Ash and Vale had gone missing or not. The lack of frequent headcounts (seriously, one at lunch and then FOUR HOURS later at the campsite?), allowing for large gaps in the group while hiking, allowing the students to go off trail both at lunch and in the campsite, which 1) puts them out of sight of the adults, 2) destroys wildlife habitats, and 3) makes me surprised there wasn't even more cases of ticks and poison ivy. Not to mention that none of the teachers had radios on them to communicate between themselves and the rangers.
(also, rangers didn't seem to exist in this book? They went to the police first. Look, I don't live in Canada but I'd be gobsmacked if they didn't have rangers in their national parks).
They knew rain and snow were forecast, and didn't ensure the kids were wearing proper clothing (this just in, Ash was wearing Keds the entire time), nor did they turn around when the thunderstorm started up.

It was just a disaster all around.

I could go on for days about the other infractions that occurred that you'd see absolutely no outdoor education program allowing to happen in real life, but I don't want to keep you forever. If anyone would like to know what this hiking trip would have looked like if handled correctly from the start, lemme know and I'll edit this and outline it for ya'.