My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The last installment in Gordon Korman’s Everest series begins with thirteen-year-old Dominic Alexis on the cusp of setting a world record and achieving a lifelong dream: he’s about to summit Mount Everest, the world’s tallest and most challenging mountain.
Along the way, he’s overcome many obstacles: his age, the fear of others that he’s too young and too small to do this, and the physical difficulties of the altitude and the mountain. He’s made a few friends: the Sherpas, his team leader, Cap Cicero; and the world’s top young mountaineer, Ethan Zaph. He’s also made an enemy: Tilt Crowley, who wants the title of youngest to summit Everest for himself. Tilt is older, bigger, and stronger, and he’s determined to win.
Korman has done an excellent job of building tension and anticipation throughout the series up to the moment of truth: who will be the youngest ever to climb Everest? And he also began the series with a funeral. We know that one of the climbers is going to die, and we finally get to find out who that climber is.
Throughout the series, Korman also did a surprisingly good job of giving some depth to his characters; more so than I’d expect in a short, goofy series like this. Perry Noonan is an interesting one. His rich uncle funds all of Perry’s climbing. He’s actually scared to death of climbing, but it’s the one common interest that he has with his uncle, whom he loves. He figures his uncle will be crushed if he doesn’t carry out this dream, and so he’s torn between his legitimate fear of dying and his love for his uncle and desire to please him.
Then, there’s Tilt Crowley. Tilt’s been a bully from the beginning, but it’s hard not to feel bad for the guy when you discover that he grew up in poverty and desperately needs the exposure and money from climbing to support himself and his family. He’s willing to take desperate measures to get what he wants out of his climbing career. We can see that he has twinges of conscience here and there, but will he do the right thing when it really counts?
And then we’ve got our A plot: Dominic’s quest to climb Everest. The Nepalese government is doing their best to prevent him from going because of the bad press they’re getting (thanks, in part, to Tilt, who’s been feeding sensationalist stories to a tabloid back home) for letting a mere child try to climb Everest.
All in all, this is one of the better adventure series out in children’s lit today. The action is suspenseful and entertaining, and there’s a surprising level of depth to the characters.
And, now, you must excuse me while I go and Google pictures of Everest.