CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 31. . . .April 16, 2010
Boarder Patrol. (Orca Sports).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2010.
170 pp., pbk., $9.95.
Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.
Review by Andrea Galbraith.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
Jaws was climbing to his feet, and even confused as I was, I knew that was a bad thing. I needed to follow Kevin. One boot was strapped into my board already. I felt too woozy to stand, but I knelt on my snowboard and pushed forward. I picked up speed going over the drop-off, just as Kevin had. I was out of control, weaving back and forth, but just ahead Bridge Run fed into a busier trail. There would be people around. Witnesses. All I had to do was hang on.
The sky, oddly, seemed to be growing dark. And shifting.
I teetered on my board. Somehow I was in a wider, whiter space now, with fewer trees. I heard someone yell. Then I caught an edge, or my arm, or something. I bailed, snow scraping my face as I rolled and slid down the hill. Someone crashed into me.
"Yard sale," I mumbled. It was the last thing I said for a while.
Sixteen-year-old Ryan dreams of being a pro snowboarder, and after he wins a slopestyle competition at his local hill near Kamloops, BC, and is talent-spotted by sports videographer Ted Travis, Ryan's plans seem to be coming together. But his cousin and roommate, Kevin, is mixed up in shady activities involving thefts of equipment and drug trafficking. Ryan is drawn into Kevin's problems and only feels able to confide in Jamie, a fellow snowboarder he's long been interested in but unable to approach. Jamie finally takes the initiative to find out what's up with Ryan, and she helps rescue him when not only his plans, but his life, are in danger.
Beginning at the top of a run, and immediately introducing Ryan and Jamie by setting up a race between them, the author doesn't let readers get to the end of the ride without filling in chunks of backstory that would be better given later on. Readers who aren't slowed down by the sluggish start will find that the pace picks up quickly and doesn't flag. When Ryan isn't being chased by the thieves, he's spying on or responding to Kevin's calls for help, he is freestyling on the runs or coming to the aid of injured boarders in his role as a Junior Ski Patrol volunteer. While the level of action within a short time frame is rather unlikely, and not all events advance the story, there is no slackening of the pace as Ryan gets more embroiled in the local underworld. The crimes at the ski hill are introduced early in the story, but the extent of Kevin's involvement is always in question, creating suspense and a motivation for Ryan to try and discover what's going on without involving the police. The snowboarding sequences are exciting, and Ryan's conversational voice as narrator is accessible and likable. The snowboard slang and jargon used keeps the story believable without confusing the uninitiated.
Ryan is somewhat one-dimensional, with his only possible character flaw being his reluctance to talk to anyone about his problems. He also switches rapidly from rather naïve or slow on the uptake about what's happening with Kevin and his crowd to a quick-acting, decisive, and creative problem solver. He doesn't hesitate to behave ethically, emulating his father, who, as it is rather overemphasized throughout, sacrificed his job and standing in the town when he became a whistleblower. The beginnings of a friendship or more between Ryan and Jamie are integrated well into the main story. Ryan is rather tongue-tied around girls, and it takes a while for their friendship to develop, with Jamie being the more proactive.
The exciting climax cleverly draws all the storylines together in a way that showcases Ryan at his best, features dramatic racing down the runs, and lets the reader know that Ryan will likely still get his shot at snowboard fame.
Andrea Galbraith, a writer, librarian and parent, lives in Vancouver, BC.
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