Thursday, September 06, 2018

Ascent (A Peak Marcello Adventure #3)

Smith, Roland. Ascent (A Peak Marcello Adventure #3)
May 8th 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

After their disastrous climb in The Edge, Ethan, Alessia and Peak are looking for some adventure that is a bit safer. Ethan is now Alessia's bodyguard, appointed by her mother, who is now the ambassador to Myanmar. When they learn about Hkakbo Razi, an alpine mountain on the border with China, they are intrigued, especially since it's never been accurately measured. It seems like an uncomplicated journey, so they take off, but soon run into trouble. They have a porter, Lwin, and his elephant, but both of them are unreliable and a little bit dangerous. When Alessia has to spend some time in a village fighting malaria, the group runs into Nick Freestone, a botanist who is collecting samples. In exchange for the climbers' help in obtaining samples from trees, he offers to take them to the mountain. They let Lwin go, but he's not happy, and soon the military is on the group's tail, looking for Lwin, who had killed his girlfriend with a sling shot and stolen the elephant. They manage to pay them off and get on their way. Freestone visits a friend who is a trader, and this friend take Peak to visit a high powered, somewhat shady, but ultimately decent businessman, Chin. He was also a mountain climber, and offers them a new battery for their satellite phone and help if they run into an emergency. There are no shortage of challenges on the trail-- sabotaged bridges, a reappearance of Lwin, but also some unexpected help from old friends. When they reach the mountain after their difficulties, there is still plenty to overcome, even when Peak's father makes a surprise appearance. Will all of them survive what turns out to be a more treacherous climb than is expected?

I don't have any desire to ever climb a mountain (or travel in space!), and books like these are part of the reason why! Smith has so many fantastic, sometimes gross details of how hard an experience this would be! From being eaten alive by bugs in the rain forest to having to eat bugs and the occasional roasted python, Ascent is a vivid description of parts of the world students will probably never travel. I have to say that I side with Peak-- I'd still be wearing long nylon pants hoping that it keeps me from getting even more bug bites.

Peak's struggles with his past, especially letting another climber pass him in Peak and the precarious relationship he has with his father, add a layer of emotional depth that will appeal to slightly older readers. His sweet off-and-on romance with Alessia, as well as their support of one another through difficult times, is also a nice touch.

The different groups that the climbers run into are interesting as well, from corrupt Burmese soldiers who take bribes as a matter of course to Chin, whose help ends up being invaluable, to old friends from the past who show up for mysterious reasons. In some ways, it's unlikely that Peak would run into so many of them, but some, like the father of one of the PEACE climb members who died, add a nice sense of closure and make for a very rich story.

The first Peak Marcello adventure, Peak,  came out in 2007 and has been a huge hit every year with my readers. I'm going to need to buy yet another copy because it is worn out. With this third book, Peak's adventures have become a series that readers who love Gilman's The Devil's Breath and Pam Wither's books about extreme sports will go through at a pace fast enough to outrun an avalanche!

Ms. Yingling

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