When I was younger, I loved a good climb. Mostly of trees and free-standing structures, tho if I’d had a shot at a climbing wall, I’d have totally been up for that, too. So when my college roommates invited me to join the hiking club, you’d think I’d be all in. Unfortunately, club hiking required club camping, and an adolescence of indifferent living conditions in the pursuit of boarding-school-mandated “character building” had already made me deeply suspicious of any endeavour that eschews climate control and indoor plumbing for more than 8 hours at a stretch.
Thus it is no surprise that mountaineering is not high on my list of fun activities. The entire anathema idea of “roughing it” aside, I literally have no idea why anyone would throw themselves at a mountain side given the high risk of injury or worse. This may also be my bad knee talking: the first time I blew out my knee after a weekend of waitressing and paintball, I cried with fury at being immobile for several days, which is one reason I’ve given up hiking in favor of biking whenever possible, to preserve my mobility.
Which is all to say that entertainment about risky mountaineering activities is not something I would choose on my own. I remember watching the trailer for Everest and thinking, “Disaster porn, ugh, hard pass.” So when Dana Alison Levy’s Above All Else crossed my desk, I was skeptical as to how much I’d enjoy a tale of two teenagers facing the challenge of summiting Mount Everest.
I was immediately drawn in by the two narrative voices tho, of our heroes, Rose Keller and Tate Russo, teenage climbing prodigies who are about to ascend Everest. Rose is the half-Puerto-Rican, half-white overachiever who is absolutely gutted when her climber mother is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, ending Maya’s climbing career. She wants to summit Everest to honor her mom, even as a gnawing Dread at all the unknown variables of her future dogs her every step.