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The Fear Place
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For 12-year-old Doug, a two-foot-wide ledge on a Colorado mountainside has been the ``fear place'' ever since he became paralyzed with fright while trying to cross it two years ago, on one of the family's annual camping trips. His brother Gordon, who is 18 months older, goads him constantly, trying to make him admit that he's scared. Their arguments come to a boil when a family emergency forces their parents to leave the boys at the campsite. The ``fear place,'' together with a stalking cougar, plays its expected part in the climax as the brothers find that they must work together to survive. Newbery Medalist Reynolds (Shiloh) presents a solid action story, tense and involving although it does play out somewhat predictably. The family dynamic is unusual-a tough-minded Cuban refugee father, a mother whose competitiveness with her own siblings borders on the dysfunctional. And the novelist offers an unexpected dividend in her thoughtful portrait of Doug, who is realistic about his shortcomings even as he works to overcome them. A satisfying wilderness adventure. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)

Gr 5-8-A three-week trip to the Colorado Rockies is marred when Doug and Gordon's parents must go to Boston for a funeral and leave the boys alone at the campsite. With no one there to referee, their bickering escalates, and Gordon goes off to camp higher up in the mountains by himself. Doug's hours pass slowly until a cougar begins visiting him regularly. After a few days, Gordon has still not returned, so Doug sets out to find him; the cougar follows. Helped by his observations of the cougar, he overcomes his fear of heights, hiking across a narrow ledge with a sheer drop-off, and finds his brother, who has broken his leg. The return trip is harrowing, but they make it. This story is suspenseful enough to keep readers turning the pages. The sibling rivalry is the most believable part of the plot; the dialogue is snappy and portrays the difficult relationship well. The boys' mother's poor relationship with her brother (who has just died) serves as a telling counterpoint to her sons' problems. Not so believable is the idea that parents would leave their adolescent children alone in such a remote area. The rapport between Doug and the cougar also strains credibility. Nevertheless, the conclusion is satisfying-surviving a life-threatening situation does cause the boys to reflect on their situation, and readers know they will return home all the wiser.-Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC

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