Book Review – The Courage Test by James Preller

courage-testEven his name, William Meriwether Miller, testifies to his father’s obsession with Lewis and Clark.  But poor Will is given no choice when his mother and father decide that he needs to spend his vacation following the trail of the Corps of Discovery with his obsessed father.  So Will is missing out on his baseball All-Stars team and all his vacation plans, and he Is. Not. Happy.

Will is determined to make his unhappiness known to his divorced parents.  He is sullen, angry, and defiant.  But, despite his best efforts to stay remote, he gets drawn into the wonder of the world his father is dragging him through.  But in that world, there are challenges that Will must face—whitewater rapids, a homeless pregnant girl, and bears—at least he’s pretty sure there will be bears.  And Will is secretly worried that he won’t have the courage he needs to face the challenges that Lewis and Clark faced.  But how in the world can he ever explain that to his father?  And what happens when there is a challenge on the horizon that’s greater and scarier than anything that Will could have expected?

The Courage Test by James Preller is a wonderful story about the struggles of an adolescent boy who is hurting from his parents’ divorce and feeling powerless.  The adults are making all the decisions, and they unreasonably expect him to be okay with their decisions.  His responses are normal and understandable.  Preller has done an excellent job of taking a situation that kids face every day and showing how they can come to terms with it.  Will’s parents don’t get back together, and they have a lot of challenges to face, but there is sufficient grace to get them all through it if they will just give one another a chance.

Just the other day, I was thinking that I hadn’t read any books lately about divorce, (it seemed like all the books when I was a middle schooler were about divorce), and was wondering if the trend had swung away from them that completely.  It seems like there are plenty of books that have an absent parent, but very few that deal with the process of divorce.  Or maybe that’s just my reading and not reality.  I don’t know.  But The Courage Test is an excellent example of a book about divorced parents and the effect on the child from the child’s perspective.  Recommend this book to any kids who enjoy realistic adventure stories, coming-of-age stories, or kids (or adults) who are going through divorce, or dealing with the aftermath.

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