The Courage Test by James Preller

courage-testThe cover of The Courage Test caught my eye and I had to read it.  Middle school student Will has plans for the summer. All-Stars starts this week and his
mother is pushing him out the door. Will Meriwether Miller is going to travel down the Lewis and Clark Trail with his father, a professor of American History. Will’s dad is a Lewis and Clark fanatic and has been working on a book about, you guessed it, Lewis and Clark for over ten years. Will was even named after them. He’s pissed at his dad  because he moved  out of the house and now has a new girlfriend. Will thinks that the idea of a trip is his dad’s, that he wants some together time. He is determined to be bored and unpleasant. Will’s dad though gets him to crack a smile with his jokes, Doritos and a trip to Will’s favorite restaurant, Denny’s, for pancakes.

Will is given a notebook in case he wants to take notes on the trip, something the the men on the expedition did that allows historians to know the way they got to the Pacific, what they traded and the fact that even though they packed for two years, along the way they ran out of everything. Skeptical at first, Will starts writing in it along the way. When they arrive at the Upper Missouri River they get supplies and a canoe and go for four days on the river. During the trip they meet a friend of his dad’s, a Nez Perce, he’s known since grad school. Will winds up paddling down the river with him the next day and Ollie teaches Will about the fate of his people.That day he sees an eagle and talks to Ollie about the bear he’s been dreaming about.

While it took Lewis and Clark two years to cross travel from Will and his dad make the trip in two weeks, driving, hiking, paddling and whitewater rafting. Along the way Will has to pass his own courage tests. These, along with developing a closeness with his dad and meeting a young girl and her enormous dog, help him to deal with issues that he will face in the near future.

The Courage Test is a quick and pleasant read, but somewhat predictable. I learned a lot of history about Lewis and Clark and the fate of the native people that they encountered and I liked the way it was woven into the story about Will and his dad’s trip. Also, Will’s encounter with a certain large animal is gripping as are some other moments in the story.


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