Allison's Book Bag

The Ridge by Nick Hupton

Posted on: January 25, 2014

Zach’s little brother has been missing for over a year. His parents have divorced. And when Zach takes a field trip to Minnesota’s north woods, a supernatural mystery begins. In contrast to Nick Hupton’s first book, there’s a lot happening in The Ridge. Aside from some occasional overblown flashbacks, the writing is also tighter with a better flow. Bravo for Nick Hupton’s second novel!

The main storyline to The Ridge is the disappearance of Chris. It’s the reason Zach has stopped caring about school and about rules. His mom has even threatened to ship him off to his dad if he gets into trouble just one more time. It’s also the reason Zach has become a bit of a daredevil. He strays off the trails on the field trip. On a rope obstacle course, he refuses to use a harness and gets himself banned. Secondary to the story is a field trip to the north woods. Set a group of teens, even chaperoned ones, loose in the middle of nature and you’ve got plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong. Zach gets bunked with the class nerds who, by the way, go missing shortly after the school camping adventure starts. He also tries to set up his best friend with a cute girl. Wait! There’s more! Zach starts smelling odors that no one else does such as gasoline and burnt rubber. Soon afterwards, he also sees a shadowy figure and follows a truck that no one can find later. Over all, there’s enough going wrong in Zach’s life to care about what happens next, which is critical to creating a page-turning book.

The plot isn’t the only part of The Ridge that works. Fantasy movies are especially guilty of needing to provide a logical explanation to strange events that occur within them. I appreciate that at least in this first installment of his trilogy, Hupton didn’t succumb to that temptation. Crazy weird stuff happens in The Ridge such as a cage of fire which let its victims in but not out and a cabin which appears only to those who are supposed to find it. Through various sources, including a camp cook, Zach finds out his family is under a curse that is generations old. But that is the only explanation. And I like that. Because can’t curses invoke supernatural powers?

Halfway through The Ridge, there’s an unexpected twist in the point of view. The first half is narrated in third person but seen through Zach’s eyes. Near its end, Zach and four of his classmates get lost in the woods. The second half is also narrated in third person, but now each chapter alternates between that of Zach and his best friend Logan, as each move closer to the cabin where a showdown will happen with evil. As each makes their way to the central point of the cabin, Logan’s legs are burnt by the wall of fire while Zach meets up with his dad who he hasn’t seen for months. I don’t always like switches in point of view, but here Hupton has a solid reason for his choice.

If I were to complain about anything it’s the style. It has improved over Hupton’s first book. The writing is crisper and scenes are more focused. But Hupton still too often interrupts solid action with full-blown flashbacks. Also, while the action is now more “show” instead of “tell,” sometimes it lacks that extra needed punch. Style can take years to develop. I have no doubt Hupton will continue to improve.

As I read The Ridge, I found myself wondering how the story would have unfolded if Hupton had stuck to a straightforward realistic tale. The market is glutted with paranormal books and, in contrast, Hupton’s is a quiet one. The paranormal isn’t due to wizards, witches, demons, angels, vampires, or werewolves, which makes it somewhat different. Maybe that will be enough. At any rate, I know Hupton is working on his second installment and I look forward to seeing what lies ahead.

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