Author: Elisa Carbone
Pages: 258 pages
Publisher/Date: Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Group, c2010.
And he walks out the door, just like that, kind of like an apparition. I’m left to make up a whole lot of lies about how he’s a friend of my cousin’s and his name is Paul and I was really surprised to see him here because he told me he only climbs outdoors, but I’m sure he’ll be a great guy to do this trip with because my cousin (do I even have a cousin?) has always said good things about him. Daria is eyeing me and I think she knows I’m lying. But she also completely trusts me, and my judgment, and I can almost hear her thinking that if I’m comfortable taking a trip with this guy–whoever he is–then she’s good with it. So why am I fine with running off with this “Paul” person? Something in his eyes tells me he is not an ax murderer, not a rapist, and that he is a better-than-average Sherpa. He seems trustworthy, except for the fact that he walked out wearing rental rock shoes–probably just an oversight. And he seems, well, nice.
Or maybe I just can’ resist running away with a gorgeous blue-eyed stranger. (18-19)
Critter has just escaped from a mental institution after finally getting enough drugs out of his system to function in a way that he thinks is normal. His first act of freedom is to stop in at a rock gym where he meets P.K. whose planning an escape of her own. Facing the inevitability of being shipped off to boarding school, P.K. is trying to have one last adventure and secretly go rock climbing out West until her parents catch her. She’s not stupid enough to go climbing by herself, so when none of her friends agree to the plan and Critter volunteers, she jumps at the offer. Now both sets of parents and the cops are after the two kids as they suspect the worst, while Critter and P.K. are intent on making the adventure last as long as possible.
What is it about quirky couples that appeal to me? I’m beginning to sense a theme amongst my reading choices, and I’m actually really tempted to put together a list of “Quirky Couples” based on recent experience. That, however, is for another post, but feel free to give me some suggestions of what should be included in such a list.
Having never really climbed in my life (the 40-foot climbing wall at high school retreat I don’t think counts) due to a lack of upper body strength on my part, I’m intrigued and impressed with what P.K. and Critter are able to accomplish on their trip. The climbing terms were explained extremely well, and I don’t feel like I missed out on anything. The pursuing police lends an extra sense of urgency to the story, and the adrenaline just keeps climbing until the climatic stand-off. And then, there’s a second climax as we wonder about the relationship, which is just as heart and gut-wrenching as the first.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading P.K. and Critter’s romance and how they influenced each other. Critter’s escape from the psych ward isn’t the only thing he’s hiding. That other secret has led him to have his unique, very optimistic way of viewing the world that I would love to have and experience… just without experiencing what he did in order to give him that outlook. For instant, he calls all those doubting voices in our head the hamster because he just keeps running the wheel and it doesn’t get you anywhere. He’s a very “in the present” kind of guy, which I’m not sure would completely work when you’re an adult, but here’s another example of his attitude.
P.K.: You seemed so calm up there, even when you kept falling. How do you do that?
Me: It’s easy. Don’t think about the past, don’t think about the future. There’s never any fear in the present.
P.K.: Oh yeah? What if you’re being chased by a grizzly bear?
Me: That’s fear of the future, of being caught by the bear. What if he catches you and just looks at you? Then see, there was nothing to be afraid of.
P.K.: Not likely. What if he catches you and crunches your leg?
Me: That’s not fear, that’s pain. You deal with that in the present, too.
P.K.: What if he eats you?
Me (shrugging): Then you die.
P.K.: So, duh. That’s something to be afraid of.
Me: Ha! That’s the biggest lie of all. (95)
It’s actually kind of amazing the turn around Critter went through; it’s like someone flipped a switch. But P.K. craves this optimistic outlook. Actually, I think Critter is perfect for P.K. BECAUSE of all he’s gone through. P.K. seems to have always thought her life was horrible, but Critter’s life is worse and yet he’s the way he is — and I’m not going to debate whether it’s in spite of or because of that past. Critter is something of a role model because it’s proof that things aren’t as bad as they might seem. And I think that’s a great message that doesn’t whack readers over the head, because the whole story is about living life in the present. And that’s what P.K. and Critter do, and it’s refreshing to see it play out that way.