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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Trouble in the HIlls, written by Helaine Becker. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011. $9.95 ages 12 and up

"His father's eyes bored into him. "Consider yourself grounded, son. Plan on nothing but chores and homework until you learn the meaning of responsibility. And if you can quit your boo-hooing for two seconds, maybe you'll find out what it means to step up and be a man. It would damn well be about time."

That one-sided conversation is all the incentive Cam needs to sneak out of the house and head for the Mount Observation bike trail that he loves so much:

"Mountain biking: now that was Cam's idea of a good time. Pounding his way up a trail, no matter how hard it was, seemed way easier than trying to find his way through the twists and turns of everyday life. On his bike, it was as if he were in tune with the spirit of the mountain.

He checked the position of the sun and nodded sharply to himself. A good two to three more hours still before it set for real. He could get all the way to the top of the trail and be back before supper. No one would even know he had gone."

Or so you would think.  Misunderstandings between parents and teenagers often lead to rash decisions that further lead to 'trouble in the hills' least, in this case. Cam storms the trail and is joyous when he reaches the summit, and then rests in the beauty of his surroundings before beginning a fast and furious descent. As luck would have it, he crashes on his way down, sprains his ankle and must make himself a makeshift shelter to get though a cold night on the mountain. He uses everything learned in a survival skills class to help him make his night on the mountain as comfortable and safe as it can be.

Angry voices and a plaintive cry awaken him, and the story races forward. With all his aches and pains, Cam hurtles himself away from imminent discovery, unprepared for the dangers he is about to face. Bad enough he has to avoid a mama bear and her cub, now he is faced with human traffickers, the young girl who escapes from them, and even drug runners.

The action, which has been intense right from the start, powers up and kept me on the edge of my seat, with real concern for Cam, Samira and Dakota at every turn of the page. As the story moves forward, Cam earned my respect for his growth and his ability to handle a very tough situation. Samira has great strength of character, even as she struggles to quell her fears and the anxiety to see her father again. Dakota, while daring and foolhardy, proves himself to be a loyal and worthy friend. Each character has much to admire, and I wanted them to be safe in the face of such danger.

The dramatic action moves quickly and is convincing...there are many twists and turns but each works well and keeps the reader focused on the characters and their story.  It is tough to create a complex story and give it such a sense of believability. Here, it works for me!   

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