Grizzly Lake by Robert James Woods

Book Summary:

Grizzly Lake is the true story of a boy ten years of age that run away from home. He is troubled by poor grades at school and his punishment was not to spend the summer vacation with other kids. Given an opportunity, he and another boy use every trick they can and join a group of boys going to Mount St. Helen through the YMCA. They make it to the camp at Spirit Lake and meet the legendary Harry R. Truman. Grizzly Lake has many twists and turns that uncover the many beauty of the mountain. Standing alone high on the mountain on a moonless night, he learns no matter how far he runs his troubles follow.

Amazon Link –


Seattle Book Review – 4 Stars

Thanks to bad grades and the possibility of being held back, Bobby’s looking at a summer of being grounded. When his parents take a surprising day off, he sees an opportunity to spend the weekend with his best friend, Mike, and a way to induct their clever plan to get Bobby on the trip with the YMCA boys to Mount St. Helens. They forge his parents’ signatures on permission slips and sneak Bobby onto the bus before his parents can know. Grizzly Lake takes Bobby on an unforgettable adventure as he forges friendships and finds himself lost on the mountain.

The story has a reflective quality, with the feeling that Bobby is looking back at this significant time in his life. The majority of the adventure revolves around Mount St. Helens, as it’s the only way he can see that he can save his summer, so he runs away from his parents and spends this idealistic time on the mountain, living this wilderness adventure. The opening sets up his family and their strong bond, showing them as relatively laid back and in this almost serene bubble, with just a dash of harsh reality mixed in. Grizzly Lake is set in the 1970s, which is mainly revealed through references set up in the beginning and through the reveal about one of Mike’s brothers being shot in California, which leads to Bobby mentioning the dangers flower children faced at that time.

Bobby deals with several instances of bullying, both at home and on the mountain, but each time he stands up for himself, and it is treated like a rite of passage. Time at the camp feels idealistic and full of wonder as he makes friends, works at the camp, and goes sailing. His time at the camp contrasts to his time working with his parents at their furniture-making business. Though he works at the camp, he’s working alongside friends, and it turns into this coming-of-age adventure. Serious topics are covered, specifically through Mike’s family life, but the tone remains fairly light, as no real danger ever befalls Bobby. He disobeys his parents and while grounded sneaks off to the camp, yet no real punishment ever happens. His time spent lost on the mountain focuses on his fear, but his time actually lost is brief and no real threat falls upon him. The tone at the end is a mix of uplifting and tragic when Bobby discovers Mike’s brother committed suicide after learning his own family would be growing, blending the ideas of a new beginning and a sad loss. Before Mike’s sister passed away, she revealed that Mike’s brother committed suicide because he missed his brother and wanted to be with him.

Told from the perspective of the narrator looking back at a summer that changed his life, the story has this old-timey charm. Often reminding me of novels that invoke the coming-of-age nostalgia similar to Where the Red Fern Grows. The story ends with the words, “I’m just a kid,” which resonates long after reading because it encompasses the theme of Grizzly Lake. This is a story of childhood, of coming of age at this camp away from home, but it’s also about living in the moment as a kid. His best friend has dealt with a few family tragedies, so this adventure is just as important for Mike as it is for Bobby. They embark on this adventure that allows them to grow up yet capture this childhood fun. The biggest contrast for the two friends is the purpose of Mount St. Helens. Bobby has a fairly happy life and sees this as his chance to save himself from a dull summer being grounded, while Mike uses the trip as a way to strive for freedom and happiness from the tragedy of losing his brothers in such a short amount of time. The actual Grizzly Lake represents a time of childhood and adventure, a significant moment in Bobby’s life. It’s Bobby’s chance to prove himself, and he’s determined to prove a point, but it becomes this moment where Bobby finds himself. Grizzly Lake is a coming-of-age adventure about friendship, family, and discovery.

Reviewed By: Elizabeth Konkel


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s