The Winter Road

The Winter Road

by Terry Hokenson

This visceral survival story pits Willa against both arctic temperatures and her own self-doubt. She'll need more than snow boots and her pilot's training to live through this experience. Seventeen-year-old Willa looks at a knight's helmet that she's made in shop class. After thinking for a moment, she looks for a sledgehammer and smashes it. Since her brother, Ray


This visceral survival story pits Willa against both arctic temperatures and her own self-doubt. She'll need more than snow boots and her pilot's training to live through this experience. Seventeen-year-old Willa looks at a knight's helmet that she's made in shop class. After thinking for a moment, she looks for a sledgehammer and smashes it. Since her brother, Ray, died, her mother is never around and her father ignores her. She needs to prove herself to them—and to Ray. So when Uncle Jordy's drinking threatens to ruin her mother's research, Willa jumps in his plane and flies the cold Canadian route alone to pick up her mother.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In first novelist Hokenson's remarkable story of ingenuity and courage, 17-year-old Willa survives more than two weeks in the wintry wilderness of Ontario after crashlanding her uncle's plane. Willa may be a dreamer, independent and a little "weird," but she's had a pilot's license for three years, thanks to her uncle Jordy. In the wake of family grief over her bother Ray's tragic Ski-Doo accident six years earlier, Willa has been feeling unappreciated, especially given her emotionally unavailable father, and a mother who often travels for her work with isolated villages. Yet when it came to flying, "Ray's bravado became her courage." The morning that Jordy had planned to take the ski plane to pick up Willa's mother, the teen discovers Jordy passed out, and Willa decides to fly alone. When she stops to refuel, Willa learns of a front fast approaching, but forges ahead anyway, resulting in a crash landing near a frozen lake. The bulk of Willa's story languidly and vividly details her thoughts and actions as she sets about making her own snowshoes, fish traps, shovel, snow caves and toboggan for her survival-and her journey toward the winter road that will take her home. While this novel will remind readers of Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, it is a welcome survival tale with a young woman as the sympathetic, brave and resourceful protagonist. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
A plane crash and survival in the artic Canadian wilderness may remind readers of Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, but the pilot in this novel is a girl who has impulsively decided on a solo flight when her uncle is too drunk to wake up and make his air freight delivery. The first chapter establishing the premise feels a bit rushed. Willa is angry and still misses her brother, who died several years before in a snowmobile accident. She feels neglected by her parents. Distinguishing uncle from parents is a bit confusing since Willa refers to her parents by their first names. By the start of chapter two, the reader must quickly digest Willa's history and understand why it is that she has decided to fly her uncle's route solo. The bulk of the story is one of survival, and there are plenty of details about how Willa manages that. The particulars of constructing snowshoes, building a fish trap, and eventually striking out on her own are interesting, and the intense cold Willa battles is vividly described. Snippets of her past are interwoven with Willa's present struggle, but Willa's emotions are in the background. How does her own survival shift Willa's perspective on her brother and his death? An emotional resolution for Willa is missing. 2006, Front Street/Boyds Mills Press, Ages 13 to 16.
—Mary Loftus
VOYA - Kelly Czarnecki
Although parts of this book scream "move over" to Paulsen's Brian in Hatchet (Bradbury, 1987/VOYA February 1988), the story of seventeen-year-old Willa, who can take care of herself in the challenging Canadian wilderness, overall does not quite fly. Willa has taken serious flying lessons with her Uncle Jordy. She ends up taking the Cessna, a little ski plane, out by herself since her uncle decided to drink a half bottle of Crown Royal the night before. Willa needs to pick up Jean, her nurse mom, and fly her to Kasabonika, the next village, where she will work for a week. Unfortunately the Cessna crashes because of a winter storm and failed mechanics, and Willa must learn how to survive for more than two weeks. Teens will appreciate emotions expressed by Willa as well as the landscape that paints strong feelings: "She would rather die trying to walk out than sit here like a ninny. But if she could make a fish trap, maybe she could catch enough fish to feed herself for a few days. And if she had some ham, she could make a ham sandwich, if she had some bread." The descriptions of making snowshoes, figuring out what to eat, and staying warm, while accurate, are a bit too drawn out and slow to engage most teen readers. Teens looking for strong female survivalists will appreciate the story of Elizabeth Fama's Overboard (Cricket Books, 2002), which is a true story and quick read.
Suzy Oertel
Willa Raedl is frustrated with her life. School is unfulfilling, and at home she feels ignored and unimportant. Ever since her brother Ray died, it seems her family has been disconnected and numb to her feelings. On one particularly challenging day, Willa sees an opportunity to prove to her family—and to herself—that she is more capable and responsible than they often believe her to be. When she discovers her uncle is not in any condition to fly out and transport her mother from one city to another, she decides to fly his plane over to pick up her mother herself. After trying to navigate through a blizzard, the plane crashes in a snowy wilderness, and she must figure out how to survive deathly cold temperatures with only a few supplies and the knowledge she has gained over the years from her father and uncle. Terry Hokenson's first, The Winter Road is a story of survival and self discovery and shows how one girl finds value in herself through determination and perseverance.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Willa Raedl, 17, feels totally alone since her older brother died. Her mother, a nurse, spends most of her time traveling from village to village, and her father is a wilderness guide. Ignored by both parents, but especially her dad, the teen thinks that she must measure up to her brother. Learning to fly Uncle Jordy's Cessna 185 gives her a sense of purpose and belonging. When she goes to visit her uncle and finds him drunk, she decides to fly solo from Sioux Lookout to Peawanuck, near Hudson Bay, where her mother is expecting to be picked up. This hasty decision has far-reaching consequences. When Willa flies into a storm and crash-lands, she begins an 18-day struggle to survive. Even though this is essentially a gripping survival story, it is also a well-written, thoughtful book about a girl's desperate efforts to gain her father's approval.-Sharon Morrison, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Durant, OK Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Weather through the initially chilly intra-familial relationships, tinny dialogue and unfamiliar-sounding names to learn how Willa Raedl, 17, survives her plane crash in a snowy wilderness. Willa is having a hard time in high school. Her brother recently died in a skiing accident and her family members are trying to cope. She decides she needs to get away for a while. Over the weekend, she is to copilot a small commuter plane piloted by her uncle, picking up Willa's mother who works long shifts as a nurse in remote parts of the county. When Willa discovers her uncle fast asleep and drunk, she decides to take the plane herself. She's successful for most of the way until something goes wrong with the plane and she crash lands in a snow-covered lake-bound wilderness. How Willa survives will immediately engage any young adult, male or female, especially those with a fondness for the great outdoors. Readers will cheer her on in all her spirited ingenuity and will to survive. Educators will appreciate the non-stereotypical teenage female character and could successfully pair this novel with Gary Paulsen's Hatchet in a thematic unit on survival. (Fiction. 12-15)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

Meet the Author

Terry Hokenson grew up in southeast Texas and central Minnesota and worked as a carpenter and an attorney. An avid year-round camper, he lives in Minneapolis and is active in the Minneapolis Quaker Meeting. He has one grown daughter.

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