Fans of Gary Paulsen won't want to miss acclaimed author Alden Carter's exciting tale of survival in the Minnesota wilderness. Mark and Randy are 15-year-old cousins, reluctantly setting out together for a 10-day canoe trip that's a coming-of-age tradition in their family. The two don't know each other well, and each harbors doubts about the other's capabilities as well as his own: Mark feels completely inadequate compared to his older brother, and unsure if his new girlfriend will wait for him; Randy is coping with diabetes, which may be the only thing still holding his parents together. Both boys realize that in order to get through the trip, they'll have to work together. After a few initial problems, they begin to enjoy themselves, and even each other's company. Nature is full of surprises, however: a bear they think they've outsmarted comes back, this time destroying their food pack, which also contains Randy's insulin. When Mark's map-reading mistake gets their canoe smashed, the boys lose most of their remaining supplies, and suddenly find themselves in serious trouble. They journey on courageously, but both are near the brink of death when Randy falls unconscious and Mark has to go on alone to get help. Carter, the author of Up Country and Dogwolf, among other young-adult favorites, excels in describing the wild magnificence of northern Minnesota's Boundary Waters. He develops his characters into realistic individuals, with dialogue to match. Each boy's reluctance to let the other see his weaknesses is utterly convincing, as is their mutual realization that they need to trust each other to survive. Between a Rock and a Hard Place has enough full-blown suspense to leave the most jaded adventure fan breathless, and readers care about the protagonists, which makes each heart-stopping moment all the more significant.