“Reads like a memoir…The canyon becomes a metaphor for the difficulty of Tristan’s life, as the grieving process proves to be arduous, with little family support to guide him.”

Another review of my young-adult adventure novel, Tracker’s Canyon. Reviewed by Zachary Chauvin for Resource Links: Connecting Classrooms, Libraries and Canadian Learning Resources

TRACKER’S CANYON, Dundurn Press, 2017, grades 7 and up.

Pam Withers, in her book Tracker’s Canyon, writes about the perils of a sixteen-year-old canyoneer named Tristan who is dealing with the recent loss of his father.

Tristan’s grief becomes a struggle that he projects onto his climbing adventures, as his father’s death occurred in the very canyons that Tristan explores. This exploration takes on greater importance as the death of Tristan’s father remains a sort of mystery, as no trace of his body was ever found and it remains somewhere within the canyon walls.

The book is written in the first person, so it reads like a memoir, and because of this we get a very intimate understanding of Tristan’s pain and grief.

The central conflict of the book surrounds a mysterious and enigmatic canyoneering guide named Brigit who as it turns out has a deep connection to the death of Tristan’s father. Brigit at first seems willing to help Tristan but soon becomes antagonistic when matters of Tristan’s loss are brought up.

Slowly Brigit becomes more contemptuous and her connection to the plot becomes more and more intricate as we learn that her mother had an intricate connection with Tristan’s father.

Brigit slowly becomes more sinister, until Tristan must find a way out of the danger she has intentionally created.

The setting of Tracker’s Canyon is predominately in the treacherous pathways of Swallow Canyon which the characters navigate at their peril. The canyon becomes a metaphor for the difficulty of Tristan’s life, as the grieving process proves to be arduous, with little family support to guide him.

As well, Withers develops Tristan’s character as fiercely independent, portraying him as an adept tracker of animals and people, and consequently associates such an ability with his need to unearth the truth about his father.

All of this is well and good and provides a nice foundation for the plot.

By the end of book Withers writes as though both Tristan and his father are together: “I feel Dad with me. We always tracked together, so this is our time of day. We spot some deer tracks and veer off the trail after them, slowing, consumed by the joy of being outdoors, the thrill and anticipation of following a wild creature.”

In this way an important message is conveyed to a young reader who is given a good sense of the profound relationship between a son and his father.

Thematic links: canyoneering; grief; outdoors