Cara is on the cusp of adventure. Unlike her best friends, she doesn’t want to go to college, she wants different kinds of challenges. And anyway, home just doesn’t fit anymore. She is growing distant from her friends and hasn’t spoken to her father in eons. To make matters worse, her ex-boyfriend and fellow climber, Nat, has popped back into town after breaking up with her over text. So it’s the perfect time to leave, and she has big plans for a gap year to rock-climb in Patagonia.

But when Cara hears that her father is actually missing, things change. While trying to track him down, she discovers a trail of clues centering around the history and life of the legendary mountaineer, outdoorsman, author, and all around dirtbag, Beckett Friedrichs. And unfortunately, the only person who knows enough about Friedrichs to make sense of any of this is Nat.

Their search for Cara’s father will lead into the Cascade Mountains, up a harrowing rock face, and navigating through time as Nat and Cara explore the history of World War II with the impact of Pearl Harbor and its Japanese Incarceration Camps, Cara’s family, and each other.

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Read by Sura Siu and Matt Pittenger

A rock-climbing adventure unearths an unexpected mystery.

The summer after high school graduation, Cara’s busy working three jobs to fund a gap year rock climbing in Patagonia. She’s independent and tough, not the least because she has to be—her dad, who taught her to climb, is unstable, mentally ill, and so unreliable he missed her graduation ceremony. Now, he’s not responding to messages. When Cara goes to check on him, she finds his climbing gear gone and one wall of his trailer papered over with maps, photographs, and sticky notes. To find him, she’ll need to figure out what it all means—and what peak he’s trying to climb. Interspersed with Cara’s first-person narrative are diary entries from the 1940s by a young, implied White climber in the Civilian Conservation Corps describing his growing romance with an artistic Japanese American farm girl. They are hampered by racism, particularly once America enters the war. Bradbury’s smart, fast-moving book immerses readers in the language, procedures, and emotions of rock climbing without overwhelming those unfamiliar with the sport. She lets her characters and their stories be complicated and multidimensional. Her description of Cara’s dad’s mental illness is particularly real: “Sometimes he was sort of medically allowed to be a selfish jerk. The tricky part was how the messiness made it really hard for everybody around him to know when to cut him some slack and when to just cut him off.”

Great holds, great movement, and a worthwhile finish.

Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

In this genre-blending adventure, Bradbury (A Moment Comes) injects a high-stakes mystery with adrenaline. Recent high school graduate Cara plans to spend her summer working various odd jobs, rock climbing, and gearing up for her gap year traipsing through Patagonia. When Nat, her ex-boyfriend and fellow rock-climbing enthusiast, reappears in town, however, it sends her into an emotional spiral. She does her best to avoid Nat, until her depressed father—whom she hasn’t spoken to in months—disappears. He leaves behind a trailer filled with clues in the form of old photographs, annotated maps, Beckett Friedrich climbing guides, and coded notes that Cara’s convinced only history-loving Friedrich superfan Nat can unravel. Her father’s trail leads the teens into the Cascade Mountains, where they face strenuous challenges, learn more about Cara’s family’s past, and find their way back to each other. Bradbury interweaves Cara’s urgent first-person narration with brief diary entries by an adventurer from the 1940s, which tell a parallel story of young love hampered by racism during WWII. Cara’s tenacity and grit make her a heroine to root for, and her determination to find her father no matter the cost conveys a complex, heartfelt relationship. Cara is white and of Japanese ancestry; Nat cues as white.

Publishers Weekly