I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Dan Versus Nature by Don Calame
Published by Candlewick Press on April 12th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Boys & Men, Humorous Stories, Nature & the Natural World, General
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Shy and scrawny Dan Weekes spends his time creating graphic novels inspired by his dream girl and looking out for his mom as she dates every man in the state of California. Then his mom drops a bomb: she and her latest beau, Hank, are engaged, and she’s sending her “two favorite men” on a survivalist camping trip to “bond.” Determined to trick Hank into showing his true — flawed — colors on the trip, Dan and his nerdy germaphobe best friend, Charlie, prepare a series of increasingly gross and embarrassing pranks. But the boys hadn’t counted on a hot girl joining their trip or on getting separated from their wilderness guide—not to mention the humiliating injuries Dan suffers in the course of terrorizing his stepdad-to-be. With a man-hungry bear on their trail, no supplies, and a lot of unpleasant itching going on, can Dan see his plan through now that his very survival depends on Hank?
Dan vs. Nature by Don Calame was exactly as hilarious as I had expected it to be. Previously, I had read Calame’s Swim The Fly which had me laughing out loud every few pages. So it stands to reason that I expected Calame’s latest book to be chock full of humor. Well, Dan vs. Nature totally tickled my funny bone. I found myself actually laughing out loud at various points of this book while also cringing in sympathy.
Dan vs. Nature is about this kid named Dan who is about to get a step dad. When the book opens up, he is currently getting the crap kicked out of him by the wrestling team. His friend Charlie has riled them up. So, then Dan goes home after to school and his mom is so excited about introducing him to her new boyfriend, Hank. Dan immediately is skeptical of Hank, especially because all the other guys that her mom has dated have turned out to be duds.
Dan’s mom has booked a wilderness trip for Dan and Hank as a surprise way to get the two to bond before upcoming nuptials. Dan drags his friend Charlie along and together the duo unleashes a plan to scare Hank off of Dan’s mom. They just didn’t factor for a super good looking girl to be on their trip. Like Murphy’s Law, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
Dan as a character is quite compelling. He is a super nerd. Also, Dan really enjoys comic books and is designing his own graphic novel. He is quite the artist. He’s also kind of a little jerk — but it is for a good cause. After all, when you really get down to it, he just wants to protect his mom from getting hurt. In addition, I think that Charlie really does egg him on. So, points for a realistic portrayal of peer pressure. Also — Dan’s scrapes that he gets himself into are hilarious. Each prank that he tries ends up backfiring in magnificent fashion.
Don Calame’s Dan vs. Nature does a great job incorporating family as a major theme. I like that now with YA, we do not have invisible or non-existent parents and families. It has certainly evolved since I began reading it on a serious level. I LOVE THAT. Anyways, so we get a true picture of how Dan and his mom have been a duo for such a long time. I mean, his mom has made some not so great dating choices and Dan feels her hurt every time she has a break up or they do something wrong. So, he’s naturally wary of Hank. YOU GUYS HANK! He’s such a great dude and so it is hard seeing all the things that Dan puts him through, but also really, really funny at the same time. Of course, you can likely guess how the book is going to end. The journey to get to that point though is worth taking.
Probably the only weak spot in Dan vs. Nature is the romance. Honestly, it is not all that great. It is just Dan has this crush on a girl and refuses to talk to her but draws pictures of her in his graphic novel. Then, there’s Penelope who is into all the same things as him, but is also precociously smart. Dan has a little tiny bit of a crush on Penelope but feels it is disloyalty to the other girl, Erin, who is not on the trip. However, there’s sort of this hatred and rivalry between Penelope and Charlie which is quite amusing.
Dan Vs. Nature by Don Calame is certain to appeal to readers who are in the marketplace for a lot of laughs and irreverence. Sure, there is gross out humor which might not appeal to all readers. But, this book has heart. It’s a story about family — and the lengths we go to protect the ones we love. Also, about how maybe first impressions might just be wrong. In all, I had a blast reading this book.
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