I picked up this novel really because after reading a few THICK books, I needed something light, short, and quick to read. I was able to finish it in one afternoon so that was refreshing! Plus, after looking at my Goodreads challenge and seeing how behind I am, I needed something that would push my number up, and quick! Plus, it is a read that qualifies for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge as well.
In Dogsled Dreams by Terry Lynn Johnson, Rebecca is a young girl living in Canada with her father and stepmother. She isn't like other girls her age, who are interested in boys and celebrities - she is interested in dogs and sled racing. She spends her days in school, daydreaming about how she is going to get her dad to let her race and her nights training puppies, doing dog-related chores, and dreaming of making it big as a real musher.
Rebecca goes through a few trials and tribulations with her dogs, everything from a neighbor who lets them lose to wild animals that threaten them along the trails. She even has a somewhat close encounter with a pack of wolves while camping overnight. Throughout all of these, she still rises to the occasion and strives to prove to her father and stepmother that she is ready to run the real race.
I have mixed feelings about this book - I recently read a similar book, Black Star, Bright Dawn by Scott O'Dell and I feel as if I kept comparing the two as I read. Dogsled Dreams was a good read, and it did capture what I believe would be the true feelings and emotions of a young girl who was dying to dogsled race, but I just never could really connect to Rebecca. Her emotions didn't feel deep enough, her disappointments weren't my disappointments, and her anger at the break-up of her parents just wasn't genuine feeling. There were a few scenes where she was angry at her stepmother, Heather, for moving in and "messing everything up" but being that her stepmother played a very small role in the novel, it never felt "real." Her relationship with her father and best friend, Jackie, were a little more true. I could have dealt without the stepmother storyline.
The best part of the novel was probably the dogs themselves, but that also had its pitfalls - when you got to know one of the dogs, such as Apollo, something would happen that would take them out of the main storyline so it was hard to invest much emotion there either. I am an animal sympathizer, so that is probably why they were a highlight in the novel.
I was disappointed in the lack of detail regarding the setting. Set in Canada, in the wilderness, the opportunity was there to really reveal what it is like to live there to the reader, but that really didn't happen - the most I got was some minimal descriptions of the trails.
Overall, for a debuting author, this book is "okay" but I am disappointed - I really had big hopes for this quick read, but it just fell short of my expectations. I would be interested in reading something else from this debuting author to see if her writing style evolves.
Terry Lynn Johnson's Website
Dogsled Dreams Facebook Page