BookPage Children's Top Pick, February 2015
You could say Mark is running from death. But, in a way, he’s also running toward it.
When the 12-year-old from Washington state runs away—with his camera, notebook and beloved dog, Beau—he’s got a plan and a reason. “The mountain was calling me,” he says in The Honest Truth. Mark plans to reach the top of Mount Rainier.
Mark has been battling cancer for years. It has once again returned, so Mark decides this is his last chance to make the climb. He leaves his parents and best friend, Jessie, for the adventure of a lifetime. And adventure, indeed, is what he finds. A series of chilling setbacks threaten Mark’s journey but only add to the suspense. The theme of friendship—between Jessie and Mark and between Mark and Beau—is a steady undercurrent that guides the journey as well.
The book is told in alternating chapters, with Mark’s first-person narration juxtaposed against a third-person account of the people searching for him. It’s an effective device, revealing to readers both sides of Mark’s journey.
Inspired by the loss of a friend who loved mountain climbing and dogs, writer/librarian Dan Gemeinhart has taken great care to craft a believable and poignant tale of steely resolve and undying friendship. Reluctant readers will especially enjoy the forward-moving adventure, and dog lovers will be thrilled with this truly magnificent tale of “boy loves dog” (and vice versa). This is an outstanding debut novel.