cover image The Fear Place

The Fear Place

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Beauvoir. Atheneum Books, $16.95 (118pp) ISBN 978-0-689-31866-5

For 12-year-old Doug, a two-foot-wide ledge on a Colorado mountainside has been the ``fear place'' ever since he became paralyzed with fright while trying to cross it two years ago, on one of the family's annual camping trips. His brother Gordon, who is 18 months older, goads him constantly, trying to make him admit that he's scared. Their arguments come to a boil when a family emergency forces their parents to leave the boys at the campsite. The ``fear place,'' together with a stalking cougar, plays its expected part in the climax as the brothers find that they must work together to survive. Newbery Medalist Reynolds (Shiloh) presents a solid action story, tense and involving although it does play out somewhat predictably. The family dynamic is unusual-a tough-minded Cuban refugee father, a mother whose competitiveness with her own siblings borders on the dysfunctional. And the novelist offers an unexpected dividend in her thoughtful portrait of Doug, who is realistic about his shortcomings even as he works to overcome them. A satisfying wilderness adventure. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)