My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The second book in Gordon Korman’s Everest trilogy follows thirteen-year-old Dominic Alexis and the SummitQuest Team to Everest’s Base Camp. Climbers rest and train at the camp for a few weeks before tackling Everest in order to get acclimated to the altitude.
I appreciated that Korman decided to dedicate an entire volume of his book to Base Camp because this is how it would happen in real life (well, except for the whole thirteen-year-old trying to climb Everest thing. The youngest person ever to climb Everest was a fifteen-year-old Sherpa girl. If not even a younger Sherpa could tackle Everest, there’s no way a mainlander could do it). The SummitQuest team, led by mountaineering legend Cap Cicero, spends a few weeks at Base Camp training for what’s ahead — which looms over them every day.
Dominic Alexis, our protagonist, is following a nameless urge to climb, climb, climb. Korman has gifted him with a natural climbing instinct — the Sherpas naturally recognize one of their own and accept him without a word. But Dominic becomes afflicted with HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) and it threatens his chances of joining the rest of the team on their push to the summit
Korman also spends some good time on character development here. The only girl on the team, Sammi Moon, comes off a bit flat as the “wild child” of the group, but there’s a surprising depth to the other climbers. Perry Noonan is the rich kid with the big secret — he’s scared to death and never even wanted to be here in the first place. Korman does a great job of building a realistic conflict in Perry between his fear of dying on Everest and his fear of disappointing his favorite uncle. Cap is totally believable as the experienced climber who alternately worries about the kids and pulls his hair out in frustration at their immaturity. And, all the while, he, like Dominic, is being driven by the siren song of Everest.
But the most interesting character to me is Tilt Crowley. Tilt is established as the camp bully and all-around jerk. He’s secretly sending exclusive reports to tabloids back home that are damaging the team’s public image. He accuses Cap of being reckless by including Dominic on the team when he’s so young. And he resents Dominic’s presence on the team because, if Dominic completes the climb, he’ll take the record of being the youngest person ever to climb Everest — an accolade that Tilt wants for himself.
But there’s a reason Tilt is the way he is. He grew up poor and with no opportunities. Mountaineering is a sport that requires money, and he never had any, so he had to work hard to continue pursuing the sport he loved. At the heart of it all, Tilt is just another kid who wants to rise above his circumstances to prove to the world — and to himself — that he is somebody.
This book was a fun, quick read and definitely a satisfying hour for anyone who’s ever wondered what it’s like to climb the world’s tallest and most unforgiving mountain.