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Summary: Out of Range
In Out of Range, sisters Abby, Emma, and Ollie can’t seem to get it together. After months of squabbling, their parents ship them off to summer camp together to figure out their issues. The girls succeed in ignoring each other most of the time, but a hike gone wrong on their last day forces them to work together against hunger, near-drownings, and bear attacks. The story alternates between the past and the present so readers can see what went wrong with the sisters and watch them make their way back.
As someone prone to anxiety, I rarely read middle grade survival fiction, but this was perfect for me! It is true survival fiction, but somehow grounds the reader by returning to the past for some moments of reprieve. I also loved that the girls were not alone but had each other, even though it took them a while to finally work together.
The story is also told from the perspectives of all three sisters, and because they’re at different ages, they’re dealing with varying issues. The oldest Abby is a young teen (12-13) who’s desperate to be liked by the popular boy in her class (to the point of taking up a new sport she hates). Middle sister Emma is shy and struggling with making new friends after the family’s recent move. Worse for her, Abby, her built-in best friend, seems more interested in a boy and being friends with the popular girls. Ollie feels left out (as always) from her sisters’ bond. At nine, she’s younger than both of them, and no one ever wants to play with her.
Books with sibling squabbles can be tricky. I generally dislike plots built on squabbling and constant bickering, but this one is realistic and not overdrawn. Also, at the heart of the disagreements and (occasional) vindictiveness is a strong desire to be seen and appreciated by each other. I really liked the author’s approach and since I have a younger sibling, I know how tumultuous those younger years can be for the relationship.
If you like all the elements of survival fiction — no food, no power, life-threatening situations, lots of hiking — this book has them in generous amounts.
Overall: Out of Range
Out of Range is a heartfelt survival middle grade book about sisterhood, tween angst, and identity. Starring three sisters between the ages of 9 and 13, this story will work for various ages and appeal to kids with diverse interests. If you enjoy books set in summer camps or stories about kids adjusting to a move, this would be a great selection! It’s also a 2022 Summer Reading Guide pick!