By N.D. Wilson
When a teacher from eleven year old Tom's school proposes to his mom, Tom runs away. Actually, he doesn't run away, but he leaves to try to get himself together an ends up sucked underground and into a series of caves under the mountain where his house sits. In said caves he finds a dead body, a dog, a live man, four graves, and the adventure of a lifetime.
You wouldn't guess by reading this blog, but I never read fantasy until I got married. I can literally count on my fingers the fantasy books I read before then (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter (1-5), and A Wrinkle in Time); it just wasn't my thing. However, it is my husband's thing and I have since read a ton of fantasy and have come to enjoy it overall. But lately I've been really looking for a good old fashioned adventure story - no fantasy elements needed. Leepike Ridge exactly fit that bill.
There's a young protagonist, some particularly vile bad guys, a tragic back story, and a lot of good clean (well, muddy) fun. I loved Tom. His temper tantrum in the beginning seemed realistic (who would want his mom to marry a teacher?), and the adventure on the styrofoam raft, while improbable, reminded me a lot of Huck Finn's adventure down the Mississippi, though a lot shorter. He handled himself so well in the caves, and that first night when he found something to do just to keep the light on seemed like something I would have thought up.
I liked the sub story of buried treasure and the evil men who were willing to do anything, including take advantage of an emotional mother, to get it. The men are vile and rather violent for a kid's book, but most of the violence is off screen.
I also really liked Reg. I figured out who he was pretty quickly, but he was just so good. He was a great leader for Tom and he had a lot of really sage advice like "...our bellies aren't big enough for revenge. It turns sour and eats you up." (p 137) A very true sentiment that most people need to remember nowadays. I loved that he took care of the bodies, all of the bodies, he found in the cave and the general respect he had for what he found down there. And, the hot pink he wore for the final adventure was a great detail. I giggle just trying to picture it.
The ending seemed to come together a little too nicely, but at the same time, it worked really well. So, I don't actually have a complaint about it. I just wish we learned where the entrance Ted found was! And why Tom's mom even put up with Jeffrey; she didn't seem to like him much.
Highly recommended to lovers of great adventure everywhere.