Ice Dogs

Ice Dogs

by Terry Lynn Johnson


Victoria Secord, a 14-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer, loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival, and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods, is entirely up to her.

Author Terry Lynn Johnson is a musher herself and her crackling writing puts readers at the reins as Victoria and Chris experience setbacks, mistakes, and small triumphs in their wilderness adventure.

I found Ice Dogs for my Nook during this time last year when I was actively following the Yukon Quest dog sled race. I never got around to reading it for some odd reason, and decided that now was a great time to pick it up with the 2016 race starting in less than two weeks.

Ice Dogs is a Middle Grade/Young Adult novel about two teenagers and their struggle to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. Victoria Secord is out on a run with her dogs when she comes across a boy laying across the trail and bleeding from a head wound. Chris, new to Alaska, has wrecked his snowmobile and its up to Vicky and her dog team to get him home. But nothing seems to go right for the two. Chris leads them in the wrong direction and a brutal storm forces them to spend the night out in the wild. And then one night leads to another and another; soon the teenagers are desperately struggling to survive the winter wilderness.

I read Ice Dogs in one sitting. Johnson does a wonderful job pulling readers in with detailed descriptions of the beautiful and deadly terrain and I loved how she showed the joy of running a dog sled. She points out how dog sled racing is a passion and that despite the dangers, is something Victoria Secord will always have to do. Johnson spends plenty of time introducing us to the dogs and includes a variety of personality traits, much like I would expect to find on an actual team. She also makes the drive and passion for the sport easy to understand for those of us who have never raced through the snow behind a team of happy dogs.

I even enjoyed how she handled the two teenagers. There is no insta-love between them, which is quite realistic as the two are left starving throughout most of the novel. But that doesn’t mean there is a lack of chemistry because there is, of course, attraction and plenty of awkwardness between Vicky and Chris. A number of reviewers have complained about the awkward interaction between the characters but I think Johnson did a spot on job describing how a 14 year old and 15 year old would handle having to share the same sleeping bag not to mention the struggle to survive.

With that said, I felt like some of their personality traits were a tad too convenient. Chris knowing how to sew being the main item. I get that he likes to create things but there needed to be more back story for that detail. The same goes with Victoria coming to the realization that she’s been too hard on her mother after the death of her father. The novel should have been at least 50 pages longer to give the author more time to hash out Victoria’s personal growth. And I’m happy that Victoria came around in the end (definitely not a spoiler because it’s pretty obvious) because I wasn’t up to reading the book with her being the spoiled rotten brat that she is for the first third of the novel.

Ice Dogs is a short novel and would probably be considered Middle Grade, but I think it’s perfect for readers of Young Adult in need of a break from the insta-love, dystopian, vampire fantasy stuff flooding the markets. And it was the perfect way to spend a lazy Friday night! Has anyone else checked out Ice Dogs?


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