Peak by Roland Smith

PeakHoughton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2008

Fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello is nearly two-thirds of the way through his secret goal when he gets nabbed, hauled by police onto the top of his latest skyscraper, even before he’d had a chance to tag it. Before Peak knows it he’s been arrested, appeared in court before a judge, and he’s headed out of the country in his father’s custody, the father he hasn’t even heard from in the past seven years. The worst part of it is, Peak’s dad has an agenda—an agenda that Peak’s both excited about and scared of. Peak’s dad wants his son to be the youngest person to climb Mt. Everest. Peak doesn’t have any idea if he can make it, and there’s a deadline, Peak’s fifteenth birthday is coming up fast.

Peak is an engrossing adventure story. Peak Marcello is a kid to be admired. He’s strong, addicted to climbing (no surprise, since his parents were a legendary climbing team), and more than a little reckless. He’s also been put in a crazy position where he’s got to figure out how much he can handle, who he can trust, and whether or not he should cut and run.

I loved this book for all kinds of reasons. I loved reading about cold Mount Everest on sweltering hot summer nights. I loved learning about the details of climbing Everest – you’ve got to go up and down bunches of time just to acclimate to the altitude. I loved accompanying Peak through his doubts and through his suspicions of everyone’s motivations. Were his feelings real? Were they affected by lack of oxygen or physical duress? Why does everyone want something from him?

This book moves right along, and I think it will draw in all types of readers. Peak is a great pick for classroom and school libraries. The Edge, the sequel to Peak, will be out in October. I’ll be looking for it!

I read Peak courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers and NetGalley.

Steel Trapp: The Academy by Ridley Pearson

Steel Trapp the Academy Disney Hyperion Books, 2010.

Steven “Steel” Trapp has it — a mind like a steel trap, that is. His mind has gotten him into a fancy private boarding school, but it’s also getting him into trouble. On move-in day at school his prodigious memory is helping him navigate the campus when Steel happens onto a shady lesson. Steel just thinks it’s cool — a school where you get taught to use blow guns? Bring it on! But he finds out pretty quickly that this was a secret lesson when the students and instructor attempt to chase him down. When Steel discovers that his good friend Kaileigh is also a new student, they set out to solve the mystery of the school that isn’t what it seems. Before they know it they’re embroiled in international espionage.

I went looking for a kid spy novel at the library and I found it in Steel Trapp: The Academy! It’s actually the second book in a two book series, but unlike some series I’ve started in the middle, I had no difficulty catching up with the story. This story has enough suspense going to keep even reluctant readers reading and enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. It’s a very fun read and exactly what I was looking for. This book would be a great addition to classroom and school library shelves.

I’m a Boston native and found that the author changed the geography of the city in a few significant ways. That was puzzling as I tried to link my own knowledge with the story and some things were just physically impossible. Also, the author had the kids pull the cord to signal a stop request on the bus. I had to chuckle. I loved the detail, but it’s been at least 15 years since I’ve ridden on a bus here that had pull cords for stop requests. Despite these curious changes, it was fun to read a book that featured Boston. I’ll be looking for Steel Trapp: The Challenge so that I can read about Steel and Kaileigh’s first adventure.