Here’s to You, Zeb Pike

Here’s to You, Zeb Pike
Johanna Parkhurst
Difficulty: Easy
Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Blurb from Amazon:

“Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back. That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.

Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.

Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?”

Wow that’s a lot to cram into a blurb but hey, it’s the publisher’s decision. Here’s to You, Zeb Pike isn’t as doom and gloom as the description makes it seem, in fact, it’s Dusty and his siblings’ optimism and resilience that proves to be the book’s defining features. And boy do they need it, as you can see, they’ve got a lot to deal with. Of course, there’s still plenty of angst, it just comes from places you might not expect. Dusty does acquire a love interest in the latter half of the book (who stars in the semi-sequel, Thanks a Lot, John LeClair), but it’s much more the story of Dusty’s coming-of-age, or, rather, his return-to-age as he learns to cope with the major changes occurring in his life.

I’ve always had a soft spot for stories about foster care or difficult family situations, especially in YA. For starters, it’s heartwarming to see characters find their way to safe and healthy living situations and to be able to do the things their circumstances formerly prevented them from doing. But it’s also nice to read about young characters with problems beyond the usual high school drama/identity crisis sagas. And I don’t mean The Hunger Games either, things can be tough enough without imagining entire dystopias to go along with them. My background was nothing so bad as Dusty’s (thank goodness), but it was different enough that I wanted stories that reflected my experiences. I didn’t have many of those at the time, but reading them as an adult is still a cathartic and affirming experience.