Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘The Ridge

Nick Hupton gets teens. His background as a high school teacher shows through in how well the dynamics between Zach, his friends, and his parents are drawn in Stone Ridge. Hupton also knows how to create an easy read. His desire to reach reluctant readers is evident with his straightforward style. Unfortunately, when Hupton starts trying to pull all the plot pieces together, I feel less satisfied.

It should come as no surprise that Zach and his parents don’t understand each other. Since when do teens and adults ever see eye to eye? When it comes to Stone Ridge, Hupton actually made me feel sympathetic for both sides, which is a commendable feat. Zach is being haunted by an evil man named Victor. He wants the hauntings to stop and feels the only way is by returning to Pine Ridge where he first encountered Victor. On the other hand, Zach’s dad know how life-threatening that first encounter had been. For that reason, he tries to investigate into Victor on his own and to keep Zach out of it. Moreover, he wants Zach to concentrate on high school and sports and not worry about his missing brother or the mysterious rocks. Part of me wants to yell at Zach to just let the grown-ups sort out the bad guys. The other part of me knows that Zach is right when he says Victor seems intent on hunting him down and so Zach doesn’t really have a choice but to get involved. Characterization is my favorite part of Stone Ridge.

As an avid reader and a special education teacher, I sometimes find myself conflicted over literary style. When my mind isn’t tired, I think nothing of reading flowery prose or obtuse sentences. I also appreciate lengthy and layered novels. My resource students on the other hand often have limited vocabulary, attention spans, and life experiences. Except for my most motivated students, they aren’t going to wade through lengthy exposition or description. Hupton knows how to create action and tension. He also relies more on telling than showing when it comes to crafting scenes. As a special education teacher, I need books like his that might turn my students into readers. Even myself, I enjoy quick reads when my mind is tired or my life is overly busy. So, Hupton’s style works.

Rocks with powers. A man come back from the dead. And forces which draw Zach, his friends, and even his dad into a face off against Victor. There’s a lot happening in Stone Ridge. This makes for lots of adventure. However, it also means there’s a lot of pieces to pull together. To be honest, I never really understood why Victor couldn’t just steal the rock from Zach instead of trying to bully him into handing it over. After all, Victor is apparently capable of creating burning smells and making trails appear out of nowhere and even in sending Zach back in time. You’d think someone with that amount of power would be invincible. Conclusions are a challenge to write. There are any number of ways they can fail. And then they don’t convince. For me, Hupton’s conclusion feels confusing and contrived.

Stone Ridge is the exciting sequel to The Ridge. When I reviewed the latter, I expressed a desire to see what lay ahead for Nick Hupton. I still feel that sentiment. Then and now, Hupton is a writer with a promising future.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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.

NickHupton_InterviewNick Hupton is pursuing two lifetime dreams, that of being a teacher and a writer. To date, he has two novels published: If I Knew It Was Coming and The Ridge.

Although Hupton isn’t a military kid, while doing graduate studies, he became interested in writing about the war in Iraq. At that time it was in full swing and very much on his mind. In an interview with Jody Sparks, Hupton decided to combine the idea of parent separation with the exploration of the “wars” going on in the homes of deployed soldiers. As part of his research for If I Knew It was Coming, he spoke to a number of kids whose parents had been deployed and listened to their stories. He also did a lot of reading about the affects of deployment on families.  Finally, his wife and him even traveled to Walter Reed Medical Center (still in operation at the time) to speak to administrators. My review of If I Knew it was Coming appeared on Wednesday.

 As a middle school teacher, Hupton used to chaperone field trips to an environmental learning center in northern Minnesota called Wolf Ridge. In an interview with Book Club Reading List, Hupton explains that he would take the students on hikes at night and tell them a ghost story about an old hermit who lived in the area. It was believed, according to the story, that the hermit was responsible for a number of missing children over the years. “The kids would get creeped out and the story became a bit legendary throughout our school.” When he had the opportunity to write a second novel, this ghost story inspired The Ridge. My review of The Ridge will appear here tomorrow. Save the date: January 25!

ALLISON: Iowa! What do like most about growing up in the Midwest? The least?

NICK: I grew up in Des Moines, but have lived in Minneapolis for the past 15 years.  I have enjoyed my time in the Midwest.  I have traveled extensively, but have never lived anywhere but Des Moines and Minneapolis, so it is difficult to compare it to anything else.  I love the city of Minneapolis–the parks, the lakes, the culture.  There is a lot of writing inspiration in this town and I love that.  What I dislike the most about the Midwest would have to be the weather.  Summers are great around here, but the winters are long and can be depressing!

ALLISON: What is your most proud moment as a teen? The moment you most wish to forget?

NICK: My most proud moment as a teen probably came on the tennis court.  Tennis has been a huge part of my life from when I was a young kid, through college, and even now (I am a high school tennis coach as well).  Cramping up in an important sectional championship match, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it through, but I fought through it and ended up winning, qualifying me for the state tournament.  It was a very proud moment.  I think I tend to pull details from that adversity and transfer them to the characters in my books as well.  Sometimes they transfer directly to the athletic field (both Tim Hansen and Zach Sutton are baseball players) and other times, it happens in their daily lives.  The moments I wish to forget are the times I might have made bad choices and knowing the consequences were coming from my parents.   There are a number of scenes in my books that play on that suspense and discomfort–knowing that there will be a punishment and, but not knowing how the parents are going to react.

ALLISON: Do you prefer middle school or high school? What is one reason you stay in the education field?

NICK:  As far as teaching, I prefer high school overall, but there are things I miss about teaching middle school.  I loved the relationship building aspect of middle school- the fun activities and field trips, particularly.  Some of my favorite moments of teaching took place at Wolf Ridge, which was the trip that inspired the setting for The Ridge.  But I do love teaching high school day in, day out.

ALLISON: Are you a teacher or a writer first?

NICK: I am definitely a teacher first.  It is my #1 priority.  I love forming relationships with students and watching them grow, but writing is a true passion of mine.  It has been my dream for many years to become a published author and I am so thankful and grateful that it has come true.  I owe North Star Press a great deal for helping make that happen.

ALLISON: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in creative writing? What three lessons did you learn from that experience?

NICK: My degree from Hamline University was a combination of Liberal Studies and Creative Writing, so I got the best of both worlds.  I took some amazing classes separate from the creative writing track, but then also was able to take many classes in writing as well.  I knew I loved writing and wanted to learn more.  Honestly, I never realized it would lead to the publication of 2 novels (3rd in the works), but I couldn’t be more happy with the results.  It was a great program and I would do it all over again if I had the chance.  The three lessons I learned would be: the elements of writing fiction, the patience it requires to complete a longer project, and how the publication process functions.  These were all eye-opening aspects of the program and I continue to learn more and more about each of these as I have experienced the world of publication.

ALLISON: Outside of tennis and writing, what are your hobbies?

NICK: Outside of tennis and writing, my favorite hobby and passion is music.  I am a drummer and come from a very musical family, so it has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Music is a great escape for me.  I even have ideas for books that revolve around the music world.  Hopefully those ideas will come to fruition in the not too distant future!

ALLISON: Do you prefer the city or the country?

NICK: I definitely prefer living in the city.  I love the culture, people, and atmosphere.  But I also love the outdoors.  We have a cabin on a lake we go to frequently and I love nature.  It’s so peaceful and soothing.  It serves as a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city.

ALLISON: What’s your favorite season? Do you prefer hot or cold weather?

NICK: Summer is definitely my favorite season.  It allows me to get outdoors, exercise, and soak up nature.  It also doesn’t hurt that I don’t work full time in the summer either!  My wife is a teacher too, so our family enjoys the time off and it gives us time to travel, do book promotions, etc.

ALLISON: You watched scary movies to help inspire you while writing The Ridge? What ones did you least like? Which ones gave ideas?

NICK: I do love scary movies. Halloween is my favorite holiday, partly because there are so many of those movies on around that time.  But I also read a number of paranormal/fantasy books to get ideas for the The Ridge.  Stephen King is a big influence on me.  I think he is an amazing storyteller.  I never thought of myself as a paranormal mystery writer until The Ridge came along, but King has shown me that great stories can be told in alternate realities.

ALLISON: How do you overcome writer’s block?

NICK: Writer’s block is obviously very frustrating.  If I am stuck at a particular point in a novel, I usually try to step away from the writing for a while–maybe a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, even.  When I come back, it is fresher and less daunting.  Sometimes the ideas will come to me while I am on that break and sometimes not, but it is always simpler when I return for some reason.

ALLISON: What are your top favorite teen books? Favorite general books?

NICK: My favorite teen books would have to be To Kill A Mockingbird, The Fault in Our Stars (John Green is amazing) and I really like The Hunger Games and Divergent series.  My favorite books overall would be Native Son by Richard Wright, The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. and The Kite Runner just to name a few.

ALLISON: What’s next?

NICK: I am currently writing the sequel to The Ridge, entitled Stone Ridge.  I am very excited about it.  I think it is even better than the first book.  It is a bit darker and longer and it has been very interesting to watch the development of the main character, Zach Sutton.  It should be released in either early June or September.

NickHupton_BioNick Hupton is pursuing two lifetime dreams, that of being a teacher and a writer. Born in Iowa, he still has family in Des Moines and feels connected to his Midwest roots.

Middle school was a positive experience for Hupton. He got good grades, performed well in sports, and had quite a few friends. He also got into his share of trouble, but nothing that went too far. Oh, and he went through a hippie stage in eighth grade. Meaning he grew out his hair, wore tie-dye shirts, and played drum in a band. Looking back, he still considers this a pretty cool time.

His love of tennis and small, liberal arts colleges led Hupton to Minnesota, where he graduated with degrees in English and Secondary Education. After establishing a teaching career, he decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Liberal Studies and Creative Writing. He considers this choice one of the best in his professional life, because his professors helped me realize his writing potential. An early draft of If I Know It’s Coming served as the synthesis project for his graduation, receiving the award for “Best Creative Synthesis” for the 2008 class.

Hupton’s experience as a middle and high school teacher has inspired much of his writing. In an interview with Jody Sparks, Hupton indicated that his books shows ideals and behaviors that he has witnessed countless times in the classroom by many different students. “I am constantly soaking in material for my writing while I teach.”

The bigger question is: When does he find time?” He teaches English, coaches the Varsity tennis team, and is a father to two young kids. Time isn’t a luxury. He writes “whenever there is a spare minute.”

According to his About Me, Hupton’s biggest joy is his family. Their support has allowed him to travel “down this long road that will hopefully continue for many miles.

Find out more about Nick Hupton tomorrow in my interview with him. Also return on Saturday for my review of his first book in a planned trilogy, The Ridge. Save the dates: January 24-25!

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