Summary: After his father dies, Ned must leave school at the tender age of fourteen to work and help support his mother and sister. But when the Klondike Gold Rush comes along, both Ned and his mother figure it’s their ticket to wealth and prosperity. Sixteen-year-old Ned heads up the west coast of North America all by himself, hoping to stake a claim in the Yukon once he gets there. Befriended by a man who goes by the name Montana and a dog he calls Nugget along the way, Ned finds things are not what he expected. Swindled by Montana and too late to stake any great claim, Ned seeks out employment and struggles to make his way in the harsh environment.
Number of Pages: 210
Age Range: 11-13
Review: Destination Gold! by Julie Lawson is a story mainly about three characters: Ned, Catherine, and Sarah. While Ned’s tale is what drives the book and plot, Catherine and Sarah are equally wonderful characters with compelling storylines of their own. I loved Sarah’s journey toward independence from her mother, proving to her family that all she needed was a chance to flourish in order to do so.
Ned’s independence isn’t as surprising. He’s a male and though he is only sixteen-years-old, venturing out into the world alone to seek his fortune at that age in the late 1800s was certainly not unheard of. What I liked about Ned’s part of the story was his determination. He kept encountering obstacles but he also kept picking himself back up. And when things go really bad, he is fortunate to have help from trustworthy friends and a dog who is incredibly loyal.
Catherine is the character I admired the most through. She’s also sixteen, but she’s a girl, and the difference between the sexes becomes obvious when she is offered as a bet payment in her father’s poker game. Catherine has guts, fighting for herself when the man who won her tries to abuse her. I loved how she tried to make herself as inconspicuous as possible by dressing as a boy while journeying to the Klondike, and that Sarah was able to see beyond Catherine’s rough exterior to see someone who was lonely and in need of someone to care about her.
But the best part is that it’s all set up against the backdrop of a gold rush, and Lawson uses it effectively to make for a fascinating, fast-paced and action-packed read. I love the historical aspect of the story, as I didn’t know much about the gold rush before reading it. The hardship so many people endured for what amounted to a pipe dream for most is just astounding.
I appreciated Lawson’s happy ending, although I think it makes the book more suitable for pre-teen and early teen readers. It’s an excellent adventure story, and Lawson develops three characters that are easy to care about.
“Catherine frowned, bewildered and unexpectedly hurt by Sarah’s words. Heathen, foreigner … Neither was true, but that didn’t bather her. She’d been called worse. But lonely? No! Just because she’d built a wall around herself didn’t mean she was lonely. It meant she was smart. She had to be, to survive what she’d been through.” – Catherine from Destination Gold! by Julie Lawson, page 111