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Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Review by Jensen

into the wild book cover

The wilderness is an alluring place. Normally when one thinks of nature, their mind is sent to a nice forest, a calm stream, or a great canyon; specifically, they point out the beautiful side of nature. Unfortunately, nature is not single sided; in fact, it also has a bad side too. Transform those picturesque thoughts into a frozen tundra where the temperature is below sub zero and snowstorms occur at a constant rate. Now picture this: you're in your 20’s, graduated from Emory University, and you also have a financially stable family that loves you. Who would ever give that up? No one. Actually, if your name is Christopher McCandless, you would easily do this. Based upon the real story, Jon Krakauer’s novel, Into the Wild, delves into the odd mind and life story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who decides to abandon his great life to go live a life in solitude in Alaska. You are probably asking yourself: “why would Chris be so dumb to ever do such a thing?” That is exactly what Krakauer answers in this novel. 

            Chris McCandless was everything I said he was: young, graduated from Emory, and had a loving family that was well equipped. In 1992, Chris decided to donate his entire savings of $25k to charity and flee off to the Alaskan wilderness. He also abandons his car along with his other personal items and he burns his cash too. Another fact to note here is that he told no one about this. Yes, no one. Not even his own parents. So it is devastating for them to find out that after four months of searching for their missing son, they are given news of his death without getting to say anything to him before he passed. His corpse was found in a decommissioned bus in the middle of the wild by Alaskan hunters. They call the FBI and our narrator, John Krakauer, is on the case to figure out how Chris died and why Chris did what he did. Krakauer meets with some accomplices Chris met on while in Alaska and his other trips to the western portion of the country just prior to going to Alaska. John has to investigate Chris’ past and his relationship with his family in order to discover why this “expedition” even happened in the first place. Lots of digging and studies on other individuals similar to McCandless help John discover the truth that explains Chris’ motivations and how he died. 

            Krakauer places a strong emphasis on the true nature of the American wilderness. It becomes known that Chris’ role models were Henry David Thoreau and John Muir, one writer and naturalist respectively, who were men that also looked onto nature as a means to learn more about themselves. While they weren’t as crazy as Chris, their words of the beautiful, calm wilderness inspired many like Chris to go soul searching into the wild. As beautiful as nature can be, it can also be a very unforgiving place. Another important motif to take note of is Chris’ self-innovation of his overall character. Throughout the novel, Chris changes his name to not only conceal his true identity, but to display his growth as a human being. He goes from Chris to Alex McCandless and ultimately to Alexander Supertramp. Don’t ask why “Supertramp.” 

            Krakuer’s deep dive into Chris McCandless is an excellent read. The pacing of the novel is very good and each chapter has great substance with almost no filler at all. It’s crazy to believe that the novel is one hundred percent authentic and there have been people inspired by Chris’ story and gone out to live a life in the wilderness too. Again, I strongly recommend one to read this book. It’s a literary classic and a true testament to American literature at its finest. 

Check out Into the Wild from the Newport Beach Public Library.

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