Take a peek at Peak; you’ll be hooked all the way to the summit.

Peak by Roland Smith; published by Harcourt, Inc., Orlando, Florida, 2007; 246 pages.

Peak Marcello is 14 years old.  He hasn’t seen his father in seven years.  He lives with his mother, step-father and six year old twin sisters.  As a 14 year old, he’s restless; as a step-son, he’s trying to figure out where he fits in.  Two things he knows for sure: he loves to climb and he loves his sisters.  Both his parents are “rock rats”—climbers, mountain climbers to be specific.  Climbing is in Peak’s blood.  So as a restless 14 year old, he decides to climb and “tag” skyscrapers in New York City, his hometown.  After he’s caught, tried and sentenced, the judge agrees to let Peak move to Thailand with his father instead of serving his sentence in the juvenile detention center.  His father has somewhat altered the plan; Peak will join an expedition to Everest and attempt to be the youngest climber to reach its summit.  Along the way, Peak befriends Sun-jo, the son of a Sherpa that saved his father’s life, who also aspires to be the youngest to the summit.  In the end, Peak’s tenuous alliance with his father is subjugated by the urge to do what’s right and he allows Sun-jo to reach the peak.  Peak turns around and immediately returns to New York, where he finds everything that really matters to him, including his step-father.

This extraordinarily written coming of age story captured my imagination.  Smith’s writing had me convinced that a 14 year old boy had captured his thoughts in a diary.  Witnessing Peak’s maturity grow was as interesting as the climb itself.  He recognizes that there is barely a bond with his father.  He realizes that sometimes thinking about others instead of yourself can be rewarding.  He also learns that life-and-death choices exist beyond just surviving a climb to the peak.  The challenge of the climb will appeal to teen boys in particular, although most teens will relate to Peak. 

5P     4Q     Grade Level 6-9

peakCover Art: The collage of mountain and climbing images may appeal to young adults.  The very large, bold font for the title is also appealing.  Using a quote that includes “thrilling” and “adventure story” should also help with the appeal of this book.  The image of a climber on the spine draws more attention than the title does, which may help teens looking for an adventure book to spot this one.

From Reading List:  Survival in Love, War or Sports

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