In West’s Christian-themed, debut YA novel, a teenage girl is determined to figure out who’s stealing Native American artifacts and trying to scare people away from a national monument.
It looks like 16-year-old high schooler Gwyn Lorne will be spending her spring break at Spirit Mountain. She, along with her twin, Chad, and their friends Alec and Brooke Walsh, has heard rumors of “spooky” occurrences there. Although the sheriff of nearby Pine Valley warns them to stay away from the landmark, adventure-seeking Gwyn convinces Alec, the oldest among them and the group’s driver, to check it out. The mountain belongs to the Seneca Nation, which has allowed the National Park Service to establish a new park and monument there. Some locals claim that Seneca spirits are angry over the “invasion”; later, Gwyn sees a seemingly ghostly Native American dancer there, and she deduces that it’s a flesh-and-blood person who’s hoping to frighten visitors away. The person may also be connected to the theft of relics from a local archaeological dig. As Gwyn gathers clues and compiles a list of suspects, she also struggles with her romantic feelings for Alec. Her investigation soon includes a search for legendary artifacts that’s arduous and exceedingly dangerous. West’s book has a profound religious theme; all four teens are Christians, but although Alec is devout, Gwyn occasionally questions her own beliefs. However, the mystery takes the foreground, and it entails genuine peril—someone gets shoved off a mountain trail at one point—but it’s all thoroughly wrapped up by the end. Gwyn’s primary motivation for solving the mystery, however, is unclear; at different times, she seems to be doing it because she’s attracted to its inherent danger, intent on completing a challenge, or wanting to prove her capability to Alec. Her tenacity, though, is without question, and West adds credibility to the story with familiar teenage traits, such as use of hyperbole; at one point, for instance, Gwyn is certain that the girl whom Alec may like “is a million times prettier” than her.
A worthy introduction to a young sleuth who would be welcome in future series installments.