CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 5 . . . . October 5, 2012
Vanisha has lived in Arkansas for only one year. If she hadn’t met Rusty and Jeb, who taught her rock climbing, her last year of high school “would have been a total write off.” Before she goes back to Vermont for university, Vanisha wants to conquer Edge of Flight – “seventy feet of hard sandstone up a perfect arête” in the Ozark Mountains. She’s tried it before but has always lost her nerve at the point in the climb where she could slip and fall. The evening that she, Rusty, and Jeb leave the small town of Fayetteville to drive Rusty’s truck into the wooded mountains, they are at a diner on the edge of town when a couple of game hunters arrive with a bobcat they’ve bagged in the mountains. Vanisha is sickened by the dead animal. Her “bad feeling” grows when two intimidating, bearded bikers – also at the diner – show their thinly veiled disrespect for the law abiding hunters as well as the town’s deputy sheriff. Once near the climb site, the three friends bed down around a campfire, with Vanisha “practicing not wimping out” and psyching herself to “pull” Edge of Flight in the morning. But the next morning it’s raining and, as per the above excerpt, climbing Edge of Flight is out of the question. Instead, the friends climb in another part of the rock face and inadvertently discover a field of marijuana. Unlike Jeb, Rusty and Vanisha want nothing to do with it. That evening, back at their campsite, they are visited by the deputy sheriff. He searches through their belongings for illegal drugs and alcohol but finds nothing and warns them to stay out of trouble. The next day, as Vanisha attempts to climb Edge of Flight with Rusty’s help, Jeb is shot in the back while running from the marijuana growers. Rusty and Vanisha manage to hide him in a cave and elude the growers who turn out to be the bikers from the diner. Because Rusty knows first aid, he stays with Jeb to tend to his wound while Vanisha sneaks back to their campsite in order to drive out of the forest for help. But the bikers have taken over the camp and trashed the truck. Vanisha is forced to climb Edge of Flight on her own in order to evade the bikers and follow a footpath back into town. After a number of harrowing experiences, she makes it to the diner where she is able to get help. Further trouble ensues, but Vanisha eventually manages to save her friends.
Kate Jaimet’s ‘hi lo’ Edge Of Flight is a well written, fast paced adventure. From its start – with Vanisha envisioning her climb, and the “good ol’ boys” showing off their kill at the diner – Jaimet creates a sense of tension that she continues to ratchet up throughout the novel. Though parts of the story are predictable, there are a number of surprising yet convincing plot twists – including an excellent cameo by the Fayetteville diner’s waitress – that should keep reluctant readers (of both sexes) entertained and on the edge of their seats.
Vanisha is a well rounded, believable protagonist. She loves rock climbing and, through her new friends, has learned a different, more adventurous, way of living. And now, with university back in Vermont – ‘her home, kind of” – only a few weeks away, she’s not so sure she wants to go. She also doesn’t want to disappoint her poetry professor mother. Despite Vanisha’s anxiety about falling from the Edge of Flight, she is determined to help her friends and her bravery is compelling. By the end of the novel, she has decided to withdraw from the University of Vermont in order “to take the [road] less traveled by,” as she will explain to her mother. Rusty, who is studying to be an ambulance attendant, is portrayed as a solid, responsible type, while Jeb – a football player with no long term life plan, as yet – has a wild side. “If Jeb is the Incredible Hulk of the climbing world, Rusty is Spider Man. If Jeb is all muscle, Rusty is all technique.” Both are interesting and credible. Peripheral characters, including the deputy and the bikers, are convincing, even if somewhat stereotypical.
Author Jaimet is a rock climber, and her glossary of rock climbing terms will prove a welcome education to those – like this reviewer – who have no experience of the sport.
Karen Rankin is a Toronto, ON, teacher and writer of children’s stories..
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.