Title: On Chocorua
Series: Trailblazer #1
Release Date: February 2, 2019
Length: 299 pages
Reviewed by Sammy
A mountain. A blizzard. A young man new to hiking and to love, making mistakes in both.
First year of college. A great time to re-invent yourself. Nathan Bartlett takes the opportunity very seriously—maybe a little too seriously. And he makes mistakes.
His mistakes? Falling for a straight guy who reminds him of his beloved older brother. Getting too invested in the substance abuse disorders of two other students. And climbing a mountain in a snowstorm for all the wrong reasons.
But he also develops friendships that will be his for life. He faces his inner demons and comes up with a plan. And he realizes that answers to important questions are seldom waiting on the surface but must be worked for, or struggled for, or suffered for—and sometimes all three.
Nathan is a trailblazer on his own journey. His success will be measured not by how well he follows someone else's path, but by whether he can forge his own. This first book in a series of three novels gets Nathan started on a journey that will teach him about himself, about life, and about love.
Walk with him.
Where to begin with this incredible novel? If you are expecting a neatly tied up story with a happy ever after then you must reset your expectations and know that what you will experience is only the beginning of the journey for young Nathan Bartlett. I have a feeling that over the course of this trilogy we will grow up with Nathan for we assuredly have begun down that path with this first installment.
After losing his parents at a young age and then taken in by his maternal grandmother, it is his brother Neil who will become his confidant, his substitute father and his best friend. Even though the brothers would not share their love for hiking, Neil would be Nathan’s emotional anchor and his sense of security. Now in his first year at college, Nathan will be alone for the first time and mistakes will definitely be made from falling for a guy simply because he reminds him so much of the brother he is missing to a brush with drug addiction that will leave Nathan shaken and raw as someone he has deep feelings for will fall prey to its deadly grasp. Nathan will lust after a straight guy, come out to strangers for the first time and experience his first kiss and foray into sex. But through it all, something will be lacking—something that will drive Nathan to do foolish things and trust in those who will inevitably let him down. At the end of freshman year, it will be a changed man who stands on Mount Chocorua—one who has experienced incredible loss and one that is determined to make that loss count.
On Chocorua introduces us to a conflicted and, admittedly, naïve young man named Nathan. As we watch his first year at university unfold we begin to get a sense of just how much Nathan craves approval—not just by his older brother, Neil, but often by those he either is attracted to or in a relationship with over the course of his freshman year. It will be this addiction, of a sort, to being found worthy of being loved, that will cause our poor Nathan to do things he never would have deemed sensible had he been able to divorce his driving desire to be loved and wanted from his decision making. But it’s just these mistakes and moments of lapsed judgment that make this character so accessible and so real. He acts his age—and for a writer to achieve that with a character is more than half the battle when writing young adult material. But author Robin Reardon takes this expertise one step further and allows her guy to experience the deep pain of loss—not once, but twice and it will be the second time that is the more devastating one for poor Nathan. The experience he has from his first year away at school will begin to shape the man he wants to be in the future. It will give him a sense of focus that previously eluded him and an understanding of the desires that drove his emotions more fully. From the ashes will spring a great deal of hope and it will be that which will fuel Nathan’s ability to shoulder on despite incredible sadness.
Robin Reardon invites the reader on a trip that will lead her characters to embrace hard truths about themselves and those they love but also reveal a vast store of courage they never knew they had. There will be mistakes made and pain experienced along the way but there will also be an awakening and maturity that promises to be inspiring to those who finish the trek. I can’t wait to see what lay in store for Nathan next.
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