Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Death Mountaion by Sherry Shahan

Pages : 198
Ages: 12+
Publication: Already Available

When Erin skips out on her trip to see her estranged mother and opts to hitchhike, she comes across Mae and Levi (Mae's brother), who are going to hike up the mountains and swim. Erin quickly decides that Mae and Levi would make for a much better trip than the emotional reunion with her mother will bring.
As Erin, Mae, and Levi arrive at the mountain, they find that there are search parties for a missing ranger. Erin, ignoring the foreboding feeling she has, decides to go ahead and climb the mountain with Mae, Levi, and some people from a search party. However, when the mountain unleashes its fury in a lightning and thunderstorm, the girls are separated from the group and must survive in the wilderness of the mountain for days.

Shahan creates a survival story that will have readers feeling time creep, exhaustion set in, and cold night air blast into their bodies. The descriptions in this book are very realistic, especially when it comes to the terrifying and beautiful storms that the girls are forced to endure. Through her descriptions, Shahan creates a violent natural world, but one that is not overly "gory," even when the girls happen upon a dead body. I applaud the author for excellent use of description in that respect.

However, there are parts of the book that are so detailed and descriptive about things that seem somewhat unimportant that the movement of the story is dragged down. In a way, the slowness of the plot at these points echoes that of the creeping time the girls experience, but the reader might get a little bored with the floundering plot.

Along the same lines, the dialogue between Erin and Mae gets tedious and a little redundant while they are finding a way back to civilization. I'm wondering if this isn't a product of the slow moving plot during the "Wilderness Trek." What can two girls really talk about when survival is the utmost important thing on their minds? The dialogue lull I will dismiss as circumstantial, since dialogue before and after the girls are alone is spot-on with humor, story movement, and characterization.

While I have to admit this book was not really my pace (I was trying something new!), I did enjoy reading it. The suspense of the girls' journey and the contrast between home and wilderness proved to be a good combination. I also like that Shahan has the subplot of the estranged mother that is resolved, but leaves room for a sequel that further explores some of the ideas that are hinted toward and linger at the conclusion of the book. I would like to know what happens to Erin after she has been home for a while.

In all, I think this book will stand up to other survival stories out there. And props to Shahan for writing a wilderness survival book about two intelligent and strong young women!

Rating: 4 Pages

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