Her dad has climbed Denali, North America’s highest mountain, six times, so when he’s reported as having fallen to his death in a deep crevasse, narrator Lily, 12, knows better than to believe it.
Lily talks her sister, Sophie, 18, into a camping trip in Denali National Park but omits the true reason for their journey: rescuing Dad. Guilt-ridden over her fight with Dad before he left, Sophie doesn’t share Lily’s conviction but likes the suggestion that Dad will hear her apology better there. Mom agrees to their trip reluctantly when reminded that Ranger Collins at the Wonder Lake campground will be there to keep an eye on them. The trip isn’t easy. At the crowded Wilderness Access Center, they’re told that Wonder has no vacancies until the following night. Lily agonizes over the delay—Dad’s now been lost for four days. At Wonder, the weather is rainy and mosquitoes are biting, but Lily’s conviction and drive persuade Sophie to take off, exhausted and sleep-deprived, on the 20-mile trek to the glacier where their father disappeared. Dad’s portrayed as a free spirit and savvy woodsman. His remembered teachings and outdoor lore sustain Lily and help the girls ford icy rivers and survive wildlife (porcupine and grizzlies) encounters. An absence of racial markers will likely have readers seeing them as white.
If Dad seems less a character than a collection of folksy forest do’s and don’ts, the author’s practice of recounting terrifying events in a matter-of-fact tone (an Alaskan specialty) renders the sisters’ journey more than sufficiently compelling. (Adventure. 10-12)