What's on top of Danger Peak? That's what 13-year-old Robert Kin and his two best friends, wisecracking and loyal Chris and sweet but put-upon Rinnie, want to find out in their small suburban town of the late 1980s. The three teens are members of the motorbike-racing club the Wild Boars, and with the inadvertent help of their eccentric technology teacher, Dr. Howard (who prefers to be called “Doctor,” not “Mister,” thank you very much), they build Robert a better, faster, and stronger dirt bike—piece by piece. Haunted by flashbacks of his older brother Danny, who died trying to scale Danger Peak the year before, Robert becomes obsessed with conquering the magical mountain. For the respect of his friends and school, and with the aid of his improved Action Bike, he discovers what lies beyond the peak of the mountain—and maybe even beyond the bounds of Earth itself. Filled with humor, adventure, and, most importantly, heart, Danger Peak is an inspiring story about what it takes to achieve your dreams—and what it means to feel alive.
Perone sets up the perfect teenage boy crusade in these pages, packed with dirt bike racing, mechanical know-how, a dash of romance, and even some high-speed chases, all under the guise of Robert’s quest to “conquer the mountain that had conquered his brother.” Robert is single-minded in his focus, almost to the point of obsession, as he tries to dodge painful memories of his brother while coming to terms with his father’s poor handling of his own grief, and the story exposes the cracks in his family through flashbacks to when Danny was alive—and a curious scene at the end, when Robert gets a chance at an emotional breakthrough.
Ultimately, Robert’s mission is successful, although it takes the help of his eccentric crew and one mysterious teacher to get him there. The fun is diminished at times by Perone’s humor—cracks like the one about coming “out of the closet” make it hard to read the line about the boys keeping “their silence like altar boys in church” in any but the darkest sense. In the end, this feel-good tale on how to handle grief, accompanied by a crash course on refusing to give up your dreams, will please younger readers.
Takeaway: A teenage boy sets his sights on the impossible in this lighthearted adventure
Great for fans of: Brandon Wallace’s Wilder Boys, Gary Paulsen’s Woods Runner.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B
Perone weaves a compelling tale of one young boy’s coming-of-age journey in his engrossing debut… (He) beautifully develops Robert’s emotional arc (of wanting) to attain his goal of conquering the mountain but feels frustrated in the face of his father’s impossibly difficult attitude. He deftly portrays the young boy’s fears and insecurities, his longing for Danny, and his burning need for acceptance and understanding. Crisp and straightforward, the prose is smooth and the pacing measured. A dash of magical realism adds to the intrigue, and themes of teenage angst, friendship, bullying, grief, understanding, acceptance, and sibling bonds are beautifully woven into the narrative. A gripping, raw read.