Monday, October 8, 2012

Raven's Mountain - Wendy Orr

Raven is sure that one day her real dad will come back to look for her. But when Raven’s Mum and Scott decide to leave Cottonwood Bluffs and set up home for their new family on the other side of the mountains, Raven is devastated. How will he find her? And how will she manage without Gram and her friends? Scott and Mum’s avalanche of words about camping and hiking and a home of their own just doesn’t cut it.
When Scott takes Raven and her sister Lily on a camping trip to the top of the mountain, there is more to deal with than an avalanche of words. And a close call with a bear is not the worst of it. Raven, exuberant to reach the top of the mountain before her sister, does a celebratory dance. But the mountain’s response is both unexpected and terrifying. Raven is left alone. It is only she who can save Lily and Scott, trapped beneath rocks and in danger of their lives. But to seek help she must find her way back down the mountain.
Wendy Orr knows how to keep her readers’ hearts in their mouths. This is an adventure story that grips and enthrals. It is an account of courage and resourcefulness in the face of danger and adversity, and of the emergence of a young girl’s quiescent strengths. It is a story about change, family and the need to belong.
Written in the present tense, the text pared back to essentials, there is a feeling of immediacy, of being with Raven as she endures the endless ravages of the mountain and fights for her survival.
Apart from some mystical encounters with a family of bears and her feathered namesake, Raven contends with the mountain’s bombardments, its hidden dangers and surprises, by herself. Passages of dialogue, however, as Raven thinks aloud and discusses decisions with her imaginary companions – friends from back home, Amanda and Jess – add vibrancy and depth to the text. Orr also breaks up the story with italicised flashbacks which inform the reader about Raven’s family relationships.
Raven’s Mountain is a heart-stirring story, with a richness of symbolism and imagery, interspersed with levity and wit. A riveting and rewarding read. Highly recommended.
Allen & Unwin 2011
(A version of this review appears in Magpies Vol 26, Issue 1, March 2011)

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