With only his faithful dog, Beau, for company, Mark, a boy with recurrent cancer, runs away from home to fulfil his dream of climbing Mount Rainier.
Told in alternating first-person voices, Gemeinhart’s heart-rending yet suspenseful novel tells the equally gripping stories of the boy who went to the mountain and the girl who stayed behind. In certain respects, the story of Mark’s best friend, Jessie, who spends the novel waiting, hoping and worrying, is the more morally complex of the two. Even though he’s only 12, Mark makes a personal decision that affects others but in the end is his choice. But Jessie is the keeper of the secret, a task that becomes harder and harder as Mark’s parents become increasingly frantic and a dangerous snowstorm approaches. Mark, who is plagued by headaches and nausea, must use every ounce of his courage and smarts to persevere. Along the way, he’s helped and hindered by various characters; the most poignant is a biologist who lost his son in Iraq, and the most fabulous is a dog loyal enough to give lessons to Lassie. An overexplanatory conclusion mars the story, though it’s still undeniably moving.
Writing with care to keep from too-explicit detail, Gemeinhart presents a rousingly riveting two-hanky read. (Fiction. 9-13)