#133 Black Dog desperation
by Nikki Tate
Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2017
$9.95 / 9781459813526
Reviewed by Carol Anne Shaw
First published May 31, 2017
Reviewer Carol Shaw finds much to admire in the steep learning curve scaled by Ayla – and author Nikki Tate — on this mountain journey.
Ayla must face her fears, translate her rock-climbing theory into practice, and learn leadership skills the hard way to get everyone safely down from Black Dog Mountain. — Ed.
Nikki Tate’s latest YA thriller, Deadpoint, is part of the fast-paced, easy-to-read action novel series called Orca Sports. These are relatively short (25,000 words) stories well-suited for the reluctant reader.
In Deadpoint we meet Ayla, an anxious, sixteen-year-old who loves to rock climb — providing it takes place on an indoor climbing wall. Her best friend, Lissy, is much more adventurous. Passionate about the great outdoors, fearless Lissy doesn’t spend her time worrying about what might happen, the way Ayla does.
When Carlos, an adventurous new boy, arrives in town, he and Lissy share an instant connection that has Ayla feeling a little bit like a third wheel. Young readers will relate to the confusing feelings Ayla experiences when Lissy makes room in her life for Carlos and his outgoing personality. He is, after all, everything Ayla is not. He is also the first boy ever to complicate their friendship.
A couple of subplots deserve mention: Ayla’s mother lives three times zones away, has a new husband, a new life, and a busy career; and Ayla’s father, with whom she lives, spends most of his time depressed in front of the TV worrying, like Ayla, about things that might never happen.
When Ayla finds herself agreeing to go on a weekend climbing trip with Lissy and Carlos to Black Dog Mountain, along with Lissy’s dad, she has mixed emotions. On the one hand, Ayla will be able to keep an eye on the relationship between Lissy and the daredevil Carlos, but on the other, she’s going to have to push herself out of her comfort zone.
The path of intrepid climbing does not run smooth. When Lissy and her father are seriously injured on Black Dog Mountain during a terrifying accident, it means Ayla and Carlos will be pushed to their limits both physically and emotionally.
During the fast-paced rescue operations, young readers’ heart rates will climb right alongside Ayla and Carlos as the two teens brave adverse conditions and, somehow, save the day. The main characters are believable and the dialogue is refreshingly authentic. The compelling plot, narrative tension and gratifying finish hooked my attention and sustained my interest. In fact, I loved it.
Nikki Tate, herself an avid climber, has succeeded in writing a novel that not only entertains but educates in the arts of both story telling and rock climbing. Detailed descriptions of climbing maneuvers and appropriate jargon happen at just the right time, and in just the right place.
Deadpoint refers to a climbing technique. A hold is secured at the apex of an upward motion of the arm, thereby places minimal strain on the hold and the climber’s arms.
Not only did Deadpoint leave me with some real knowledge of the sport, I now feel inclined to give it a try — and I’m afraid of heights.
Carol Anne Shaw is the author of the “Hannah” books, all from Ronsdale Press: Hannah & the Spindle Whorl (2010), Hannah & the Salish Sea (2013), and Hannah & the Wild Woods (2015). When not writing, Carol Anne can often be found painting at her easel or hiking the local trails that surround her home in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.
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