“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” ― Confucius
Author: Johanna Parkhurst
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Pages/Word Count: 180
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back.
That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.
Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.
Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?
Review: Yes guys, Harmony Ink have nailed it once again with this courageous tale of one boy and his dedication to the family he holds dear. Set against the back-drop of the historical naming of Colorado’s Pikes Peak, this book offers a juxtaposition of the uphill struggle faced by the fearless explorer in his mission to summit the mountain. Dustin “Dusty” Porter has been raising his siblings in the absence of their father and against the whimsical disappearances of their mother for years, and at fourteen years old, he feels he has child-rearing down to an art. But when tragedy strikes, and social services become aware of the absentee parenting occurring the Porter household, it’s bye-bye Colorado and hello new family in Vermont.
Dusty was a fearless protagonist, a heart of gold that rarely thought of any of his own needs and went straight to the well-being of his younger siblings. For a fourteen year old kid to have been through what Dusty had survived was heart-breaking to read, but the narrative voice that delivered the story of the Porter children was one of pure strength and determination. The conflict that reigned within Dusty was not one many of us would have experienced, yet with artful description, Parkhurst held the readers hand and walked them through the life of this brave young man.
Finding out about long-lost family in the furthest reaches of Vermont left Dusty feeling like life was in a tail-spin, and being relieved of the duty of caring for his younger siblings was not something he was able to handle. Pride, fear and confusion took Dusty on a journey that, atypically, brought this premature man back into the arms of his lost childhood. I will admit that I welled up a lot as Dusty struggled to fit in as his role as primary caregiver was diminished. It hurt to read his destitute feelings as his aunt and uncle claimed back leadership of his younger siblings.
The characters on the periphery of this story were delightful; the open arms of brothers Emmitt and Casey were particularly moving, as they brought Dusty back to his rightful teen age, and one provided a romance that seemed to quell a storm inside the boy that was reaching a fever-pitch. Having never spent any time focusing on himself, Dusty had denied his sexuality, but with the aid of his new found family and the friends he made on his trip into the real world, he was able to accept everything around him was falling into place, as opposed to falling apart.
This booked moved me a lot, and as an adult reader, I feel this book transcends the shackles of the YA labeling and provides something for every reader out there. It was written with humour, sensitivity and grace. It provided message after message of positive enforcement for its young readers and will inspire empathy for anyone in contact with a struggling teen. This book means a lot, not only to myself but to anyone who will pick it up. Much like Huston Piner’s seminal masterpiece My Life as a Myth, Parkhurst has penned a brilliant coming of age story with a deep and profound moral tucked between each glorious page. I strongly recommend reading this book and following Dusty down a path that even the bravest explorers have traversed a time or two. Five stars for this piece of wonderful fiction written for the child and the adult in all of us.