________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 17. . . .January 3, 2014


SAR Powderhounds.

Heather Kellerhals-Stewart.
Toronto, ON: James Lorimer, 2013.
172 pp., pbk., hc. & ebook, $12.95 (pbk.), $19.95 (hc.), $9.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-4594-0519-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0518-9 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4594-0520-2 (ebook).

Grade 7-10 / Ages 12-15.

Review by Susie Wilson.

**½ /4



“Cass, I know where we are. I wish you’d be more upbeat. We need to keep moving and get down – fast. I don’t want Toru doing something dumb like notifying ski patrol.”

I’m still checking for tracks. We have to hit the opening dead on or we’re in trouble. Go too high and we’ll overshoot it and get caught on Suicide Scarp. Too low and the bush and rocks make it impossible to move.

Cass grabs my arm to make sure I’m listening. “I don’t know the country like you do, Luc, but I have the feeling we’ve stayed too high. I think we should try to backtrack.”

“Trust me, Cass, it’d be way too difficult backtracking in this deep snow. Besides, I’m sure the opening is just ahead.”

What I omit saying is this: I don’t like the fact that we’re not following any tracks. Put my water bottle away, do up my pack and we’re off again. It’d be nice if we could see some sky. The trees are shutting us in. Snow is covering my jacket and everything else. And now the unspoken question hangs between us: Where exactly are we?


Luc is an impulsive teenage boy, out for a day of skiing with his friends. He feels like he has plenty of experience, and, at the end of the day in ever more dangerous conditions, he convinces Cass, his friend and the object of his crush, to take just one more out of bounds run, just like they had been doing all day. The snow turns into a blizzard, and suddenly the two of them are disoriented and lost in the backcountry, ill-prepared to survive.

     Chic’s day starts out normally, tagging along on drills with his older brother’s Search and Rescue team. He longs to belong and be more than just a tag-along little brother, and he is ecstatic to be included, even if it just means keeping an eye on the phone while the team goes out to grab some food. His day changes dramatically when a call comes in, and Cass and Luc, Chic’s crush and his romantic rival, have gone out of bounds in a snowstorm on the last run of the day, and they have not been seen for hours.

     An adventure novel, SAR Powderhounds follows the course of the search and rescue mission from two alternating viewpoints – through both the eyes of Chic on his first search and rescue mission and Luc as he tries to keep himself and Cass alive in a blizzard on a mountain. Kellerhals-Stewart has captured the attitude and viewpoints of teenage boys quite excellently. At times, however, the love triangle involving Chic and Luc’s feelings for Cass feels unnecessary and takes focus away from the main plotline of the rescue.

     The use of alternating first-person viewpoints adds extra suspense and interest to the story. Allowing readers to know more than either character keeps readers on the edges of their seats, waiting for the Search and Rescue team to find the clue left by the lost skiers or sighing in frustration at the ill-thought-out choices of the Luc and Cass. The structure of the story, with ever-shorter chapters as the climax approaches, will pull readers along to find out if Luc and Cass are found, and if Chic and his team can get there fast enough to save their lives.

     Having two boys as main characters and narrators for the book will appeal to boys of the 12-15 audience age, and the real-life situations and excitement and adventure should attract even reluctant readers who have an interest in the outdoors. Writing from the viewpoints of the teenagers also makes the writing appealing to a wider range of reading levels, and the plot moves quickly enough to recover from the few slow passages that occur.

     SAR Powderhounds is a great book to get outdoorsy types reading up a storm.


Susie Wilson, a recent graduate from SLIS at the University of Alberta, lives and works in Prince George, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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