BOOK REVIEW: Trapped (Wild at Heart #8)

Trapped (Vet Volunteers, #8)

Trapped is the best book I’ve encountered so far in the Vet Volunteers collection. Geared toward middle school-aged readers, the series focuses on a group of animal-rescuing girls and their veterinarian mentor, Dr. Mac. As I’ve stated previously, I have a mixed reaction to these books, as they tend to focus on rescuing only cute or endangered animals, while ignoring the plight of those used for food and fiber. Trapped is a welcome departure from this tradition, and comes closest to reconciling compassion for all.

The story begins when the book’s heroine, Brenna, discovers a stray dog caught in a leghold trap in the woods near her home. After securing the dog’s rescue, Brenna and a friend decide to confront the trapper, who turns out to be a teenager not much older than themselves.

Brenna’s first encounter with animal rights is not a very positive one. Her seventeen-year-old brother, Sage, makes an angry scene at the breakfast table after learning that the waffles the family’s eating contain eggs. Sage announces he is vegan, which is explained in the book as

Vegans are sort of like ultra-vegetarians. They don’t eat meat or any other animal products, like milk or eggs or cheese. Vegans don’t wear leather, and some of them won’t even eat honey because they believe it’s unfair to the bees to steal what they’ve created.

Unfortunately, Sage is a vegan of the “angry and obsessed” (the book’s words) variety. His increasing involvement with a (fictional) radical activist group and his nonstop talk about “direct action” has the family concerned. Nevertheless, the family decides to take the less-extreme action of eating vegan along with Sage:

“It’s easier to cook one thing for everyone,” [Mom] says. If Sage wants to be a vegan, we can all try that for a while. I looked up some information on how to make sure well get enough protein, and it seems easy enough. There are a lot of good vegan recipes.”

I wanted to stand up and cheer for that! Mom admits she’s not ready to give up dairy yet. Fair enough. Unfortunately, she goes on to say that dairy is “important food” for the family’s youngest child, “since he’s still growing.” (Ack!)

In the meantime, the Vet Volunteers have a frightened dog to look after, who is convalescing at the clinic after his encounter with the leghold trap. The kids do internet research on the trapping issue, discovering some unflattering facts about the trapping and fur industries, as well as the debate over banning particular types of traps. While the girls research the issues, Sage has more extreme plans in mind. Brenna discovers a list of radical websites advocating illegal action, as well as a nearly-complete “man trap” in Sage’s room. (Oh, come on.) However, Brenna finds herself increasingly sympathetic to the proposed target of the man trap—the teenage trapper named Billy. As it turns out, Billy’s deceased father taught him to trap, and he now only does it to earn some extra income for his financially-struggling family.

Brenna’s making some headway in her efforts to encourage Billy to reconsider his actions, when Sage spots his enemy and starts throwing punches. In the melee, Sage accidentally strikes his sister, which immediately causes him to regret his previous “by any means necessary” approach to activism. Sage says:

“I think I’ve gotten a little carried away with all this animal rights stuff. Not that I’ll stop going to meetings or anything”…”I still believe in all the goals. And I’m still going to be a vegan. But I have to admit that you proved there’s more than one way to make change happen.”

Sage throws away his “man trap,” and Billy agrees to do carpentry work with Brenna’s father in lieu of trapping animals for money. The stray dog who escaped the trap is adopted. Although there is no word on whether Brenna and her parents intend to continue eating a vegan diet, she vows:

And now that I understand why some people trap, I think I’ll have a better chance of convincing them not to. (And believe me, I do intend to work hard to ban trapping in this country.) Even Sage now realizes that by understanding another person’s point of view, it’s easier to work together for change.

All in all, good stuff. I was so happy to see that for Sage, renouncing violence doesn’t mean renouncing animal rights. Being a peaceful, reasoned activist is the best path to change—and I was thrilled to see the author recognize this.

The last few pages include a section headed “Animal Rights 101,” which gives a few tips on living a more humane life by avoiding fur and animal-tested cosmetics, adopting and spay/neutering pets, and volunteering at a shelter. I would have liked to have seen diet mentioned, but the fact that positive information like this even makes it into highly mainstream books is a sign itself of progress.

(review originally appeared at


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. dog information
    Nov 22, 2011 @ 16:46:04

    Thanks for the nice work! Cool blog. There are a number of opinions on this matter and this blog states the difficulty extraordinarily great. 🙂


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