Book Review: Peak

By: Roland Smith
Published by: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 1, 2007
Genre: YA adventure
246 pages
Source: hard copy purchased by reviewer

We feature a lot of female-centered books on our blog, but many of our readers are actively looking for male-centered books to hand to reluctant young male readers. I decided to pull out this old favorite, since it’s one of the male adventure stories that has stuck with me best over the years.

Peak is a fourteen-year-old from New York City with a passion for climbing. Since the most available surface is skyscrapers, that’s what he is caught climbing when he is arrested.  Enter his mostly-absent father: professional climber Josh Wood. The New York juvenile system needs Peak to disappear to stave off the media circus; Peak needs to not spend the next several years in jail. In a matter of hours, Peak is on a plane to Asia.

Rather than taking Peak to his home in Thailand, as expected, Josh takes him directly to get a quick physical, then on to Everest. He had arranged for Peak to make an attempt at the summit, and if he was successful, he would be the youngest to ever get there. (No spoilers here- I won’t tell you whether or not he made it.)

This adventure is part scared-straight program, part coming-of-age story. Peak learns to be independent, since Josh doesn’t exactly parent him along the way. He conversely learns how nice it is to have adults take care of you and let you be a kid. He learns that the hard core climbing camps that he’s been attending were child’s play, and that his body is capable of feats that are beyond ridiculous. He learns what it is to fight real fear, and that everyone has been there- and that not all adventures have happy endings.

I picked up my copy of the book to refresh my memory enough to write up a quick review, and fifty pages later, I have resigned myself to re-reading the other two hundred this afternoon.  This is such a quick read, but a really good story. Any middle school boy will love it, and most other readers will as well. Smith published a sequel last year; I think I need a trip to the book store to look for it.

The only thing you’ll find on the summit of Mount Everest is a divine view. The things that really matter lie far below. – Peak Marcello

After fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he's left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father's renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. As owner of Peak Expeditions, he wants his son to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit--and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it's also one that could cost him his life.

Roland Smith has created an action-packed adventure about friendship, sacrifice, family, and the drive to take on Everest, despite the incredible risk. The story of Peak’s dangerous ascent—told in his own words—is suspenseful, immediate, and impossible to put down.