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Book Review

Black Rock Brothers by S.J. Dahlstrom has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the fifth book in the “Adventures of Wilder Good” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Thirteen-year-old Wilder Good lives with his parents in a trailer home near Cottonwood, Colorado. It’s been three years since he accidentally broke a treasured family heirloom — a large arrowhead made of pure obsidian. A few weeks after that, Wilder’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Ever since he broke the arrowhead, Wilder has been plotting to replace the rare treasure and restore hope to the family. When he reads about a mountain in the nearby Spanish Peaks Wilderness called Black Rock Bluff, where obsidian has been found, he begins planning an epic adventure.

Wilder spends an entire school year secretly organizing his trip. He makes supply lists, knowing he will need a tomahawk above all else. As the year comes to a close, he pitches the expedition to his dad. His parents, especially his mom, are nervous about the idea. They insist he can’t go alone, so he agrees to take his best friend, Big. Mom asks him if he’ll also invite a classmate named James, whom the boys call Corndog.

Corndog is a foster child living with a family from their church. Corndog admires Wilder, but Wilder finds Corndog annoying. He reluctantly agrees to do it for his mother. Wilder knows the few days his parents have offered to let him be away won’t be enough, so he convinces them to allow a more open-ended trip. The boys will use a satellite phone to check in each day. The boys’ fathers send them off with a prayer. Then Wilder, Corndog, Big and two dogs head into the mountains behind Wilder’s house.

On the boys’ journey, they encounter a dead deer, and later, her dead fawn. Their tent and provisions blow into the water and get soaked, rendering food supplies and Corndog’s medication useless. Wild dogs attack their pets, and Wilder is forced to kill one of the wild dogs with his tomahawk. They build a pyre for the wild dog and burn his body as he floats downstream. When supplies grow low, they hunt for their food. Wilder stubbornly refuses to go home, despite the other boys’ urgings.

The boys also have time to share and reflect. Wilder is initially irritated with Corndog for always suggesting they do things the Boy Scout way. After a few of Wilder’s attempts fail, he concedes that maybe Corndog isn’t completely wrong. The boys banter about random subjects like the right way to eat Frito pie and make s’mores. One evening, Corndog talks about being born in a prison and the abuse and neglect he’s experienced as a foster kid. Wilder and Big are shocked and begin to see Corndog in a different light. Wilder apologizes for his rudeness in the past.

The boys reach Black Rock Bluff and collect their obsidian. They swim and dance and chant around the campfire, before returning home. Wilder discovers it’s more difficult than he thought to make the obsidian into an arrowhead. He leaves a jagged piece on the mantel where the old arrowhead sat and promises his parents he will make it into a perfect point someday.

Christian Beliefs

Big’s dad is the preacher at the church Wilder’s family has attended since before he was born. The boys spent much of their lives in each other’s homes and in church three times a week. The parents pray over the kids before sending them off on the trip.

The boys pray on the day of their major climb. Corndog says he prays for Wilder’s mother and her breast cancer but doesn’t really know how to pray. He mentions a staffer and a teacher who encouraged and prayed for him during his most difficult days. Big suggests maybe the Israelites had to kill animals so it would make them not want to sin.

Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

The boys’ parents allow them to journey into the wild alone. They try to monitor the boys as best they can from a distance. A friendly ranger checks up on the boys. Corndog’s mother gave birth to him in prison and relinquished him. His grandfather, who gained custody, drank a lot and beat him. Caring individuals, including a children’s home staffer, a teacher and Corndog’s current foster parents, pray for the boy and exemplify Christ.


The text includes vivid descriptions of a bloody, dead deer. The dogs lick and scavenge off the carcass. They later find the deer’s fawn torn apart by wild dogs. A brutal dogfight is also described, and Wilder saves his dog by stabbing the offending pit bull with his tomahawk. Wilder suppresses the urge to wipe the blood on his chest and face like a warrior because he recognizes the difference between killing with a purpose and killing out of pride. They watch over the wild dog as he lies dying, and Wilder tries to stitch up a wound before they realize the dog is dead.

The boys build a pyre on which to burn him and send him ablaze down the river, just like Luke Skywalker did for Darth Vader. Corndog shares he was often beaten by the alcoholic grandfather he lived with. Because of this, Corndog has many scars on his face and body. Once, his grandfather beat his face with the metal end of a hose and seemed to be aiming for his eyes. Corndog cuts a hose the same way to pummel slugs during a stay in a children’s shelter.


The boys snicker about a trail name that means “breasts of the earth.”

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 to 14


S.J. Dahlstrom






Record Label



Paul Dry Books


On Video

Year Published





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