Author: Gordon Korma

Note: This is a three book series – Book 1: The Contest, Book 2: The Climb, and Book 3: The Summit.  Each book is short and they form a single coherent story about a group of young climbers seeking to scale Mount Everest.  Therefore, I’m clumping all three books together under one review.

Publication: Scholastic, 2002

Pages: About 100 / book

Overall Rating:                        

Rating for Action: bth_45_zps06f87659[1]

Quantity of Action: bth_4-star-rating_zps38e772a0[1]

Age Category: 9-12

Brief Summary:  A group of teenage climbers compete for the right to participate in Summit Athletics’ bid to scale Mount Everest.  Lead by legendary climber Cap Cicero, four young climbers will ultimately be chosen to tackle the highest mountain in the world.

Among those competing are some of the country’s top teenage climbers, including Chris Alexis and Tilt Crowley.  But a few surprises have been thrown into the mix as well.  There’s Perry Noonan – a reluctant climber and nephew of Summit Athletics’ CEO – and Dominic Alexis – Chris’ 13 year old brother.  Dominic is only under consideration because he won a contest for one of five wildcard spots in the Summit Athletics’ boot camp where the final four will be chosen.  But will his skill and tenacity be enough to win him a spot on the team?

Whoever goes will have to face all the dangers that Everest can throw at them – from altitude sickness to subzero temperatures, gale force winds and hidden crevasses – all in an attempt to climb a mountain that has taken the lives of countless adult climbers over the years.  And before the book is over, one of these young adventurers will meet their death on the slopes of Everest.

Age of Main Character: There are several main characters aged 13 – 17

What I Liked the Most: Korman does an excellent job establishing a cast of diverse and fully formed characters.  There are a lot of people in these books, from the hopeful contestants at boot camp, to the final four climbers, their guides, the sherpas, and the climbers on some of the other expeditions.  But they all come through as well rounded and believable characters.

Korman makes it clear from the first page that one of the climbers will not be coming home.   I liked that in part because it kept me wondering who it was going to be.  And Korman did an excellent job of keeping me guessing.  All four of the climbers on the final team would have made excellent candidates.  In the end, it made sense who he chose to die, but the book would have been equally satisfying if he’d chosen differently.  And that’s one mark of a great story.

It felt clear that Korman had really done his research for this book.  He knows an immense amount about climbing and about Everest, and he uses that knowledge to bring the story to life.  After reading this book it almost felt like I’ve been to Everest.  And I really do feel as though I have some small inkling of what it is that drives mountain climbers to take the risks they do.

What I Liked the Least: While there were some definite advantages to dividing this story into three books (such as Korman’s ability to up the level of tension by putting a climax at the end of each book) it somehow felt more intimidating to start a three book series – with each book being under 15`0 pages – than it would have to read a 450 page book.  The story is excellent, but dividing it up like that was a bit of a turnoff.

How Good was the Action?  Superb.  Korman brings a wonderful level of detail to each climb that takes place.  And as the climbs grew more difficult and the conditions got worse I could feel the exhaustion and fear in each of the climbers.  There are daring rescues, leaps from the top of cliffs thousands of feet off the ground, climbs up sheets of vertical ice, and climbs that take place in the pitch dark amidst hurricane force winds and freezing temperatures.  And all of them are written in gorgeous blow-by-blow detail.  Korman is a master at work in this series.

How Engaging was the Story?   Korman really gets you inside the heads of each of the climbers.  I felt like I could understand exactly what motivated each of them to challenge Everest.  And he’s created a set of wonderfully diverse characters, whose motives and reasons for being on Everest clash with one another in a beautifully choreographed ballet that brings them ever closer to the edge of disaster.

By dividing the story into three books, Korman also ups the tension, because each short book has its own climax.  So the level of tension remains high throughout the three book series and is brought to a fever pitch three separate times, with central characters either dying or almost dying in each of them.  As a reader, that definitely kept me engaged.

Overall Assessment: This is a topnotch survival story and an excellent introduction to the world of climbing.  It is well written and highly engaging with more than its share of dramatic, nail biting action scenes.  If you’re in the mood for a true man vs. nature story then this is one series you don’t want to miss.

Profanity: None

Sex: None

Violence: None

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