A tale of adventure and treachery, Peril on Pirongia is a short, enthralling burst of young adult literature that follows the exploits of two teenagers and their younger brothers as they hike through the New Zealand bush.
The story begins with 15-year-olds Tomas and Aidan, who are obsessed with the disappearance of an English hiker on nearby Mount Pirongia. They resolve to find him, but when the pair’s respective younger brothers overhear the potentially dangerous plan, they threaten to tell their parents – who would disapprove of the trip if they knew its real nature – and demand to be included.
Once in the bush, the boys encounter a couple of unseemly men claiming to be goat cullers, who warn the kids to stay on the trails. When the two younger brothers accidentally damage a strange-looking plant that turns out to be marijuana, tension builds and trouble sets in. A rousing cat-and-mouse chase ensues as the kids manage to stay one step ahead of the men they had encountered, who are now tracking them. Just when things seem desperate, the mythical Maori Patupaiarehe, a swirling mist filled with light, transports the adventurers to a safe hiding place and Tomas attempts to track down an adult who can help.
Although the book’s lively prose benefits from author Ross E. Leaning’s intimate knowledge of Mount Pirongia (he grew up on a nearby dairy farm), the plot could use some polishing. For example, Tomas’ younger brother Darryn uses his “shangai,” a type of slingshot, at the end of the book, but it isn’t as dramatic as it could have been since there was little mention of Darryn or his shangai in the preceding text. Nevertheless, the youthful protagonists are daring in a hostile environment and maintain poise and dignity in the face of danger, making the book an engaging and worthy read for young adults.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.