Title: The Fear PlaceThe Fear Place
Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Pages: 118
Reading Level: 10-13
Star Rating: ★★

From the author of Shiloh.

The Story.

Doug Grillo’s parents like to encourage him and his brother Gordie to have adventures – to be manly and take risks. But it seems as though the only real battles the two of them wage are with each other. Even on their annual vacation, they just can’t stop fighting. Of course, it doesn’t help that Gordie continually taunts Doug about the ridge where Doug’s claustrophobia nearly paralyzed him with fear.

The Fear Place. That’s what Doug calls it in his mind. The place where he was proved to be spineless. The place he never wants to see again. If only he could forget about it.

But when the Grillo parents are called back to civilization to attend a family funeral, and Gordie disappears for several days, Doug realizes that it is time for him to face his fear. Can Doug brave the Fear Place? And can he save Gordie?

Cautions.

By far the biggest problem with this book is the tension in Doug and Gordie’s relationship. Both feel threatened and annoyed by the other and take every opportunity to harass each other. Seriously, the arguing never stops. Back and forth, yap-yap-yap, always shouting at each other. It’s really annoying. After their parents head back to civilization, they engage in one final argument before Gordie packs up and goes off to camp in another location. After Gordie doesn’t return, Doug begins to feel worried about him and finally faces his fear of the ledge. He finds Gordie injured on the ridge and returns carrying him. In the end their differences seem settled, but it was a long and arduous journey.

Both boys also experience tension in their relationships with their parents, who are actually pretty understanding towards their children. Interestingly, we learn that this pattern began with the boys’ mother, who had troubled relationships with her parents and brothers.

An element which I neglected to mention was Doug’s friendship with a cougar whom he names Charlie. This added a fun element (imagine having a cougar as a proto-pet!), and showed that although scared of heights, Doug was brave in other ways.

Doug takes great delight in the fact that he urinated on a pack of stamps which Gordie later tried to use. (??????!!!!!!??????) He teases Gordie about this, feeling that he has one-upped his brother. Other references are made to urinating.

Doug describes certain rocks as being ‘precambrian’.

Variations of God’s name are used a total of four times – ‘heck’ is used five times and darn once. ‘D—‘ and ‘s—‘ are each used once (fully spelled).

Conclusion. Ehhh. The relational friction was resolved in the end, but the journey was over drawn.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

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