Above All Else
Dana Alison Levy
Dana Alison Levy has written several lauded middle grade novels, including The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher and It Wasn't Me. Above All Else is her YA debut. She lives in Massachusetts with her family.
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Two friends embark on an emotional and physical challenge. Rose and Tate have been lifelong friends, traveling the world and summiting mountains together. Now, at the end of their senior year of high school, they’re going for the big one—Mount Everest. But Rose feels conflicted about climbing without her mother, and Tate has a terrifying secret. Their journey from San Francisco to the highest altitude in the world tests their physical and mental strength and endurance. The isolation and harsh conditions force the pair to examine their feelings for one another as well as their motivations for climbing and the impact of the tourist trade on the environment, culture, and people of Nepal. Each chapter begins with the date, altitude, and location, helpfully setting the scene for a narrative that alternates between Tate and Rose, with some chapters acting as flashbacks. Setting and character details abound, deftly balanced with Tate and Rose’s emotionally engaging relationship. This combination allows readers to feel the dangers of climbing, the anticipation of trying for the summit, and the firecracker chemistry between the leads. A map provides context, and an author’s note offers insight into the multiple meanings of sherpa/Sherpa, further reading, and organizations that support Nepalese people, specifically Sherpa families affected by accidents on Everest. Rose is biracial (with a White dad and Puerto Rican mom); Tate is White and has ADHD. An engrossing, suspenseful, and thought-provoking adventure.
In her YA debut, children’s author Levy (It Wasn’t Me) offers a nail-biting adventure set in Nepal, where two recent high school graduates prepare for “the ultimate goal”: climbing Mount Everest. Californians Rose and Tate, best friends and long-time climbing partners, have been dreaming about this trip for years, but conditions have changed now that their goal is within reach. Rose is making the climb not just for herself, but also for her Puerto Rican mother, who has been diagnosed with MS and can’t accompany the teens as planned. Tate has had doubts about this journey after nearly losing his life on the duo’s last expedition, to Mount Rainier. Still, he wants to prove he’s not the “Master of Disaster,” like his father thinks, and be with Rose, with whom he’s in love. Written from the protagonists’ alternating viewpoints, the book’s main focus is not on the climb itself, but the teens’ changing emotions, vulnerabilities, and profound realizations as they face the dangers ahead during training. Levy skillfully shows the sharp contrast between the experiences of the disadvantaged Sherpa guides, who risk their lives to get paid, and the privileged tourists paying thousands for a thrill, and draws on all five senses to bring Nepal’s splendor to life. Ages 12–up.
Rose and Tate are your average high-school seniors from California, but they’re also legacy mountain climbers embarking on the trip of a lifetime. As they prepare to climb Mount Everest along with Tate’s father, the two teens are simultaneously riddled with life’s “big questions”: where they’ll go to college and whom they want to date. These are soon overshadowed by more dire questions, however, as a tragedy befalls the Sherpas right before the scheduled climb. Tate’s PTSD is triggered, and the dynamics between family and friends begin to unravel. Levy’s fast-paced novel mirrors the frantic, heartrending, and blood-pumping journey undertaken by her characters. Thanks to a detailed map of the mountain routes, readers can track Rose and Tate’s adventures as they wind around each other like climbing ropes, their stories dovetailing into a passionate, climactic romance. As they explore their reciprocated feelings, they must put aside disagreements and work together to survive the climb. A physical and emotional expedition, filled with danger, death, disease, and above all else, sacrifice.
The Horn Book
Equal parts high-stakes adventure and introspective teen drama, Levy's YA debut is an examination of a commercialized natural world and the burden of unchecked expectations. In fast-paced, alternating first person chapters, readers follow two teenaged best friends as they attempt to summit Mount Everest. Tate, unfocused and brash, is (to his chagrin) known as the "Master of Disaster," while Rose is calculated and driven. Though both protagonists are seasoned climbers, their ascent becomes increasingly complicated--most notably by Tate's debilitating PTSD after a recent fall, Rose's nonstop fear (identified as "the Dread") for her sick mother, and the normally platonic pair's burgeioning sexual relationship. A large cast of secondary characters weaves in and out of the story, providing effective springboards to address issues such as racism, sexism, labor exploitation, and mental health. A confluence of events at the novel's climax pushes Tate and Rose apart and past their reconceived limits, with tragic results that call into question the ethics of their once-shared goal. A hopeful epilogue narrated by Tate balances out the harrowing conclusion; back matter includes information about the Sherpa people and an author's note with further reading.
ISBN: 978-1-63289-913-2 EPUB
Ages: 12 and up
Page count: 320
5 1/2 x 8 1/4