The Hill by Karen Bass
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Pajama Press
Publication Date: March 31, 2016
Review Source: Pajama Press Review Copy
Wow! I wanted to read The Hill because of all the hype, but it managed to still exceed my expectations.
Karen Bass has delivered a well-researched and masterfully-crafted story of a rich city boy named Jared who survives a plane crash in the middle of nowhere. He wakes up to find a Cree boy named Kyle who is trying to help make sure he and the pilot are alive after the crash. In a fit of panic and desperation, Jared thinks leaving the crash site to climb a nearby hill to find cell phone reception is the best course of action. Jared fails to heed Kyle’s warnings about the hill, and since Kyle doesn’t want to feel responsible for Jared’s death, he follows him up against his better instinct. Not only does the hill not provide Jared with any reception, it leads them to a monster and a world neither of them are prepared to deal with alone. Only by working as a team and trusting each other do Jared and Kyle stand a chance at saving themselves, and even protecting their loved ones.
I have too many great things to say about this book. I loved the characters; I loved the humour and laughed out loud numerous times, in public places; I enjoyed the plot; I was gripped by the suspense; I was intrigued by Bass’ use of language and several of her metaphors and analogies; and I felt satisfied by the ending: it wasn’t rushed, and it tied together any loose ends. Most importantly, it makes me so happy to see more Canadian literature being published about Indigenity. I haven’t read a ton of Indigenous lit. but I feel as thought Bass was very respectful of her treatment of the trickster figure, Wesakechak, and of Wîhtiko. Not once did The Hill jarr me from my understanding of the Native oral tradition, creation stories, or trickster stories. I am completely open to discussion on this point, however, as I have no Native heritage myself and therefore have lots to learn.
There is quite literally only one piece of criticism I have for this story, and that is that I noticed a particular phrase used twice. However, many people might not even notice that if they weren’t reading this book as fast as I was, because there were several chapters between each use.
I think The Hill would make a great book for elementary- and secondary-school students learning about Canada’s history or Indigenous cultures. One of the things I loved most was the narrative voice and Bass’ use of language. I didn’t feel as though the plot, the jokes, or any references to Cree tradition or language were being spoon-fed to the reader. There was plenty of nuance and subtlety that made this–although quick and relatively easy read–a thoughtful and important read. This very well be a YA novel, but even those who don’t tend to read it would enjoy The Hill.
Two thumbs up. Five stars. Highly Recommended… all that jazz!