CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 7. . . .October 21, 2016
Nikki Tate’s Deadpoint introduces readers to Ayla, a teenage rock-climber who prefers the safety of the ropes and harnesses found in a gym to the thrills of climbing an actual mountain. When her best friend Lissy invites Ayla to come along on an outdoor climbing excursion, Ayla must decide whether her desire to grow as a climber-- and to impress her friend-- is stronger than her fear of whatever the mountains may hold. When the trip takes a dramatic and terrifying turn, Ayla is forced into action in order to help her companions survive.
One of Tate’s strengths in this novel is balancing on the fine line between too much explanation and not enough. She never assumes her readers are climbers who will know the terminology, nor does she over-explain the ins and outs of climbing. Readers who have never rappelled or belayed won’t find themselves drowning in technical terms but instead will finish the novel with a better understanding of what the sport actually entails. This explanation is complemented and balanced by Tate’s vivid descriptive writing. Clear descriptions of the natural settings pop up throughout the novel, just enough to set the scenes without breaking the pace. At one point, a description of an injury is so clear that it almost turns the stomach.
A major selling point for a novel of this length is usually the fast pace of the plot; most of the time, the reader is only a few chapters in before the real action starts. This is where Deadpoint struggles; after 11 chapters, the real action has yet to begin. For an impatient reader, that’s a long time to wait for the payoff. While Tate uses this time to develop her characters and the relationships between them, it can still feel like the story is stalled momentarily.
The benefit to the build-up, though, is that the characters tend to be believable and the relationships between them honest. Ayla’s constant questioning of herself and her abilities will feel familiar to many readers, and her complicated relationship with her father-- while perhaps underdeveloped, leaving unanswered questions-- will be relatable to others. Her friendship with Lissy is also realistic and serves as one of the main catalysts for the plot. While Tate successfully avoids the cliché of the best friend who meets a boy and totally abandons the main character, she does provide a romantic subplot that allows for the subtle change in Ayla’s main confidante. This, in turn, leads to Ayla’s important decision to come on the doomed climbing adventure. While the supporting characters may be underdeveloped, they serve their purposes well. Lissy’s love interest, Carlos, is gently antagonistic. While he can’t exactly be described as being mean to Ayla, he certainly pushes her out of her comfort zone.
Deadpoint does exactly what I’ve come to expect from titles in the “Orca Sports” series; it tells an entertaining story in a brief but engaging manner.
Allison Giggey is a teacher-librarian at an intermediate school in Prince Edward Island.
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