After spectacularly messing up her life, a young woman is sent to live with her ranger half sister in Yosemite National Park.
On her second night there, 17-year-old Rilla Skidmore is arrested for underage drinking, but a few days later she meets a group of too-cool 20-something climbers who take her under their collective wing. Amid the group’s friendships and rivalries, Rilla finds she’s a natural climber and soon focuses on tackling the challenging El Capitan. Unfortunately, Rilla is too full of self-pity to be likable; however, some character growth takes place as she discovers she’s capable of positive actions, including no longer defending her ex-boyfriend for hitting her after she threw the first punch during the heated argument that got her sent away. There’s an equitable diversity here: Adeena, one of the climbers who mentors Rilla, is a Muslim Pakistani woman, and Gage, another climber, is Korean-American. Rilla and her half sister, Thea, were raised by polyamorous parents. They have the same white biological mother, Rilla’s father is also white, and Thea’s father is Mexican. The gorgeous Yosemite Valley setting is the real star, but seemingly endless descriptions of climbing and its related terminology become tedious and slow the story down.
This story may find its niche with readers who enjoy climbing. (glossary, further reading, author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)