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A troubling book that made me very uneasy, for the wrong reasons
on January 21, 2012
I appreciate that a lot of people like this book a lot. I can't argue with the fact that it is heartfelt and that Bill Kerig is both honest and writing from a vulnerable perspective (he is honest about his own travails and difficulties and how they play into the story). But the bottom line in all of this is that after reading the book and listening to the protagonists explain why they did what they did, I can't help but to conclude that at its core, this book is about the adults and their manipulation (for lack of a better word) of a kid, Kye Petersen, for what's in the end their own good rather than his. It's complicated for sure, but it's hard to run away from the unsettling thought that this is sad story about adults exploiting a teenager and running their own agendas under the guise of doing "what's best for him." The book made me cringe, and I felt "dirty" reading it.
I have lived in the world of which the authors write (albeit not necessarily at their level of it). I have skied and played with people who were hard-core "extreme" skier types (I hate that word, but it does successfully connote something), and with them I have done backcountry skiing, hiking, climbing, etc., although I would never claim to be "the real deal" in this regard (although some of my friends were). But I'm also not some armchair weekend warrior. What bothered me about this story is that it feels like a form of "pimping" by adults who are bringing "new fresh meat" into "the business" as an excuse for a project that is ultimately intended for their own benefit. Perhaps the "new fresh meat" would have followed that pathway anyway, but it felt like adults were making decisions for the kid while passing it off as "his decisions" and "his own free will." I think not. Regardless, I appreciate that a lot of other people will have a different reaction to this than I did. But for me, I think that at its core, this is a story about exploitation that's instead passed off as a story about altruism.