Saturday, January 26, 2008


Leepike Ridge

by N.D. Wilson.

This book reminds me in some ways of Holes even though the stories are not that alike on the surface, I think for the way things of past and future blend in improbable but really interesting ways, and for the fact that in each, a pair take on a seemingly futile journey fueled by hope alone.

In this book, Tom runs off one night, angry about his mother's possible answer to a marriage proposal, and finds himself swept down a crevice in a river, landing in an underground lake in a cavern. He finds a few useful things on someone who had come before him and died, and is soon joined by a dog, who keeps him company. When a storm causes the water to start rising, he reaches a new crevice, and is swept into a further cavern, where he is fished out by a man who had been stuck in his cave for some three years.

Not willing to give up and settle in, Tom lights the man's own small flicker of hope, and the two set out on a mission to get out or die trying, but not before some startling revelations on the part of this long-lost man, Reg.

Meanwhile, on the surface, Tom's mother is in danger, as treasure-hunters use this opportunity to move onto her land, and they want her out of their way. Her only real ally is a strange old man that her late husband had always liked, who helps save the day in the end. I don't want to give away the ending, here, but it all wraps up in ways that are lovely and interesting and hopeful, which is always a plus, if you ask me.

This book has lovely language, without becoming overly complex, has a nice way with coincidence and taking chances, and carries a message about perserverance that I quite like, especially in that it is not heavy-handed at all. The only part that I think might give kids some pause is when Tom is trapped with the dead man deep underground. He raids his backpack, pries a helmet with a lamp off his head, pries on boot off to try to send a message, pops a ring off his finger so he can give it to police for identification when he gets out, and ultimately pushes him out into the lake, a message carved into the toe of his other boot. This is not just a little icky and creepy, so the squeamish might not enjoy that, but I would guess that by middle grades, most kids can handle it, given what else they may have read or watched.

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