Review Blog

Mar 11 2008

Peak by Roland Smith

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2007
(Age 11-15) Peak, named by his father, a mountaineer, is climbing. His face freezes on the wall of ice and while he is working out how to unstick his face without tearing his skin, a helicopter zooms in, telling him to catch hold of the rope. The opening sequence is stunning, as it tells the reader many of the quirky things about climbing, and showcases some of the dangers. But all is not what you think, Peak is actually doing something very illegal, he is climbing a skyscraper in New York.

Once down, he is immediately taken to a Juvenile Detention Centre and appears in court the next day. He is shocked by the anger of those around him until he is told that a boy died trying to copy his style of climbing buildings. As a result the judge is gong to send him back to the centre until he is 18, but his father appears on the scene, offering to take him out of the controversy, back to the Himalayas where he works. And so Peak is set to climb Mt Everest. Peak's self absorbed father is not interested in helping his son, but wants him to be the youngest person ever to climb the mountain, thus ensuring the survival of his flagging business.

I thought I would be bored by this story, but it took me in. The American style of writing, of telling you about what people are feeling, and having a lot of asides in parentheses, annoys me intensely, but the story was so involving that I quickly learnt to ignore these idiosyncrasies. I am still at a loss to understand in any way why people want to risk their lives climbing Everest, but along the way I learnt a whole lot of information about climbing, the risks involved and about the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The last few chapters particularly held me totally, as the boys found bodies of failed climbers along the last part of their ascent, while working through for themselves their motives in doing the climb. Boys particularly will enjoy this rather long read (246p) and there is a web site where they can learn more about the author.
Fran Knight

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