From School Library Journal
Gr 5-7-Fifteen-year-old Inuit hunter Nick Thrasher, fresh off a terrifying encounter with a strange bear that seemed half polar/half grizzly, receives a letter from the half brother he has never met. Ryan invites Nick to join him on a photographic journey for National Geographic, rafting down the remote Firth River far above the Arctic Circle. Initially against the idea, Nick finally decides to go at the urging of his much-beloved grandfather, Jonah, who once made the same journey as a young man. The trip proves extremely dangerous, and soon Nick and Ryan find themselves struggling to survive against bears, wolves, and the frozen elements. Hobbs is obviously concerned about climate change in the Arctic. Jonah is mostly portrayed idealistically through Nick's eyes while Ryan is used primarily as exposition or to present an argument on one side or the other in regard to the ecological conditions in the far north. None of this is to say that Never Say Die doesn't tell a good story; much of it is exciting and some of the imagery is truly majestic. It will certainly resonate with kids who have a healthy respect for the awesomeness of nature. The only problem comes when Hobbs veers too far from his story to lecture on the nature of Arctic climate change and its growing effect on the environment and the people who live there.-Erik Knapp, Davis Library, Plano, TXα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Climate change serves as both theme and frequent discussion topic in this purpose-driven survival tale. Nick, half Inuit, reluctantly agrees to accompany his older brother, Ryan, on an expedition into the Yukon’s remote Firth River territory to photograph one of the last caribou herds of any real size. Disaster strikes immediately when their raft is overturned by an ice jam—and compounds as the two head downstream in search of their supplies, only to discover they are in prime grizzly country. The trek not only gives them plenty of time to exchange views on climate-related issues but also to experience a violent lightning storm (once rare above the Arctic Circle) and an uncommonly wild gale while also being repeatedly attacked by grizzlies and a huge, aggressive “grolar bear” (a newly emerging hybrid) who has already killed other area visitors. Though plainly intent on delivering the message “the climate has become a beast, and we are poking it with sticks,” Hobbs balances info dumps with evocative natural observations and a plot lit up with extremes of privation and deadly danger. Grades 6-10, --John Peters