"I had never seen a dead person, let alone a frozen dead person...After five more corpses I stopped looking." Imagine being on top of Mt. Everest, just days before your fifteenth birthday. You could set a world record as the youngest person to ever reach the summit, but hard doesn't even begin to describe the climb. And then you begin to see the bodies of climbers before you who have died on the mountain and you realize they never made it home and it's a possibility that you might not make it. Would you continue with the expedition, or turn around and head back down the mountain to Kathmandu?
For Peak Marcello, that is a tough decision to make. He has his family in New York (mother, stepfather, little sisters), and they all want him to come home. But his father is the famous climber, Joshua Wood, and the leader of the party. Should he trust that his father is right and he can make it safely up to the summit and back? Is his father really doing this for publicity, rather than for Peak?
The story that Peak writes about his experience is supposed to be a way to complete his year at school, but it shows us all the truths he realizes about himself and what he values, and what he learns about his father and what his mother calls the selfishness that climbers at his level have to cultivate. It not only makes the reader wonder if that is truly a characteristic that is necessary for success in mountain climbers, but for others in less life-or-death environments.
It is an engaging story from the start (dangling off the side of a skyscraper), to the end. Peak's writing assignment lets us see inside his thoughts and emotions, even when the air is too thin for him to be able to speak. There are descriptions of the beauty of Everest and the damage done to it by decades of climbers setting up their camps as they try for the summit. And for those unfamiliar with the history of Tibet and China, some of the situations and stories told by the porters may be shocking.
I recommend Roland Smith's books to many of my students who are looking for adventure and survival stories, so I am excited about the upcoming sequel, The Edge, which will be released on October 6, 2015.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.