Peak, Bigger than Life: A Story of Growth

Outdoor literature deals with the outside world and the surrounding ambiences. Its often descriptive of the nature that is not found in the city. This genre encompasses subcategories which can include exploration, adventure, mountaineering, survival, hiking, and etc. Roland Smith has written Elephant Run (2007), Storm Runners (2010), Legwork (2011), and many other works.

Roland Smith’s novel Peak (2007) portrays a child’s coming of age through the realization that the world is bigger than themselves and doesn’t center around them through Peak Marcello. Peak gives up his dream to be the youngest to climb Mount Everest to help his friend Sun-jo get sponsors for school. Peak said, “You have a reason to be here, Sun-jo. An important reason. Your future and your sisters’ future. I don’t have a reason for being here.” which shows growth in the youth (230).

The story begins with the arrest of Peak Marcello a 14 year old who makes headlines after an attempt to scale a New York building. He’s appended by police in the middle of the mayor’s event which drew media attention. Peak is visited at the juvenile detention center by his mother who tells him that he may face three years in prison due to a failed copycat’s attempt that resulted in a death. However, with help from Rolf, his lawyer stepfather, Peak is able to get probation on the condition that he leaves New York with his father, Josh, until his stunt fades from the media.

Peak heads with Josh to Bangkok then receives a couple of physicals and Josh reveals that Peak would have a chance to scale Mount Everest and help give publicity for his company. The father son duo head to Kathmandu, where Peak would stay at the Summit Hotel to make preparations for the climb. There he befriends a Nepalese boy named Sun-jo, whom he trains with under Zopa, a veteran sherpa turned monk who’s helped Josh on past expeditions.

Along with clients for the adventure, travel company Peak Experience Josh’s business, Peak would climb the zones of the mountain and acclimate to the altitude. Josh’s group would be joined by a film crew and Holly Angelo a reporter and old acquaintance of Josh. The entourage traverse higher into the mountain but are confronted by Captain Shek, a Chinese officer, who’s in search of Sun-jo to prevent him from scaling Everest for political reasons.

The venture is treacherous which compelled many to turn back, but Peak and Sun-jo under Zopa’s guidance make it to higher elevations. The remaining clients don’t approve of Peak’s inclusion in their expedition which leads him to leave with Zopa, and his sherpas Yogi and Yash along with Sun-jo to climb covertly. Peak documents the climb on a camera that the film crew gave him before parting ways.

Peak - Roland Smith
Peak Cover (2007) by Roland Smith

As Zopa’s group ascends the mountain, Zopa falls ill and instructs Peak and Sun-jo to continue on without him as he recovers. Accompanied by the sherpas, Peak and Sun-jo climb the icy mountain recording their trek. The young duo reach the top but Peak decides to let Sun-jo put the flag while he documents the youngest climber to reach the top of Mount Everest. Feeling fulfilled Peak returns to New York and reunites with his family.

When Peak entered Nepal he described it as “Beautiful valleys, rustic villages, fields tilled by oxen-pulled plows, all against the backdrop of the massive, sparking Himalayas.” which gives readers a image of the outdoors (63). The countryside is juxtaposed with the industrial city which is away from nature.

The adventure aspect of Peak is comparable to the film The Martian (2015) as astronaut Mark Watney must survive on an unfamiliar setting with limited supplies as the days go by. Both Peak and Mark explore their respective surroundings which is foreign and unfamiliar to them with climate fluctuations. A Climber said, “An avalanche hit us at about two in the morning. Sounded like the biggest dang stampede you ever head Wiped out seven tent.” which shows how shifts can occur without warning (100).

Embarking on this adventure novel will give readers of all ages incentive to go to the next chapter to see the progress of characters whom they’ll grow invested in. The growth of Peak as he goes through many revelations will surprise both him and the audience.

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