Okay, so what does a former zookeeper and expert on red wolves know about writing a funny adventurous book from the viewpoint of a fourteen-year-old boy? Evidently, quite a lot. I read the book Peak by Roland Smith in an advance reading copy. Normally, these copies are offered before the book comes out, but this offer of a book, out for several years and selling quite well, precedes the release of the sequel The Edge which will be out October 6.
The boy named Peak lets us know in the first paragraph that it could have been worse. “My parents could have named me Glacier, or Abyss, or Crampon. I’m not kidding. According to my mom all those names were on the list.” So begins his tongue-in-cheek tale of getting caught climbing a New York City skyscraper, facing the judge, and getting a sentence that befits the crime.
The angry judge doesn’t want the publicity that will begin a copycat daredevil string of kids climbing skyscrapers. His mother and stepfather get a probation deal that will send him out of the country to live with his natural father who runs a company taking people who plan to scale Mt. Everest. Little do they realize the father’s ulterior motive of making Peak the youngest person to scale the mountain. Peak’s early description of his father foreshadows his danger. “When you’re at the end of your rope there’s no one better than Josh Wood. Unfortunately, he doesn’t pay much attention until you are dangling.”
Although he never completely loses the delightful sense of humor that begins the book, Peak grows and changes as he faces the dangers of the mountain, sees the single-mindedness of the climbers, and feels empathy with the Sherpa guides who do the hardest work and take the greatest risks. The narrative moves the smart-mouth Peak through a tough trek up Everest to discover what is really important to him.
A magnificent writing lesson and vivid mountaineering details weave skillfully into the narrative. If you are looking for a book for a reluctant (or enthusiastic) teenage boy, this one fits the bill. Just don’t tell him how much he is going to learn. Oh, go ahead, order both books and give him a pair.