Thursday, May 27, 2010

Snowboarding Suspense

The White Gates, by Bonnie Ramthun--Torin Sinclair moves from California to the snow-covered mountains of Colorado as his doctor mom starts a new job. The very first night, his mom is called to her clinic to treat a member of the high school snowboarding team. Other members of the team are there, and they make reference to a "curse" as they stare hatefully at Tor and his mom. They walk out without telling him what they mean. As Tor goes through his first days in town, he is met with unexplained hostility and pity in equal measure. When he goes to pick out snowboarding equipment, he finally makes some friends who reveal to him the tale of a long-gone Ute Indian determined to keep her land safe. With the help of Drake and Raine, Tor navigates the uncertainties of a new school, a new sport, and an old curse.

A fast-moving mystery story, The White Gates is interspersed with lessons on snowboarding technique and Ute history. These bits are handled deftly and with a light touch so that the reader is not distracted or made to feel as if he or she is sitting in a classroom. I was really impressed with Ms. Ramthun's ability to draw her characters to make them more than stereotypes. Drake and Raine are in some ways more fully fleshed-out than Tor, which is unusual in secondary characters. Which is not to say we don't come to know Tor. The author is exceedingly good at showing us the heart of her characters without using an excess of words to do it. I really enjoyed my trip through The White Gates, and I highly recommend it.

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