ALWAYS PACK MORE, NEVER PACK LESS
Ski Weekend by Rektok Ross was like taking The Breakfast Club concept, but modernizing the characters, and putting them in an Alive situation without the cannibalism. Not only is the book fantastic overall, it has many factors making it a page-turner. First, the character arcs shown through the protagonist’s eyes teach you: anyone who you think is two-dimensional or stereotypical can change your opinion once you get to know them. Then you add in the dog. Everyone’s going to fall in love with the adopted dog, Champion. As a fan of Pit Bulls and Parolees, this detail for the main character, Sam, automatically shows you what type of person she is. Each character was so well-written, more information about them would require a spoiler alert warning.
One of the novel’s many aspects making it unputdownable is the way it portrayed nature as an omnipresent villain; Rektok Ross makes you feel the miserable coldness, the fear of an intensifying storm, and the hopelessness of not knowing when anything will improve. The twists and turns will have you reading as fast as possible. As you read them, the stakes will rise exponentially, to the point where you can’t stop reading. Every chapter rolls into the next one due to the addictive prose the author weaves.
Since I don’t want to spoil the read, my in-depth review will focus on the way the author shows the infernal situation with the environment. Evoking your fear of not having enough supplies for a winter drive to the mountains is a direct result of the author’s masterful use of prose to showcase the despair of being stuck in a snowstorm ravaging your shelter. After reading Rektok’s novel, you’ll never pack the same.
Ross wastes no time showing the spookiness of their situation in chapter one. As the group takes an alternate route, Sam narrates what she’s seeing, and it’s at this point where the eeriness of their surroundings comes off exceptionally well. For instance, Sam reveals she is “hypnotized by the view illuminated ahead. Giant trees as tall as any building back home rise along the sides of the empty two-lane road. There are no colors anymore. Only black and gray and white of trunk and branch and snow. It’s all so desolate…We might as well be in Antarctica” (14). The sense of going into an area comparable to Antarctica is unnerving because these high schoolers are simply trying to get to their senior ski trip in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and we all understand Antarctica isn’t a place for humans to go unless they are properly prepared. Also, by comparing what Sam sees to Antarctica, the author has created a frightening foreshadow for the tension that increases with each scene after this chapter.
Ghosts and Skeletons
When you make it to the example on page 20 in chapter two, you’ll be immersed in the tale. But it’s this example that confirms the infernal situation they’re stuck in. As the group exits the SUV, Sam’s point of view is crucial because it shows the reader the direness of their circumstance. Upon exiting Sam narrates, “Shielding my eyes against the raging wind, I glance around and suck in a shaky breath… the disheveled piles of snow make strange shapes resembling creepy white ghosts and the trees are like skeletons, twisting and grasping in the air, casting shadows. Even the harmless hoot of an owl, a mix between a whooping sound and a small dog’s growl, is enough to make my skin crawl.” Not only is this moment excellent at communicating the hellish setting, but it also showcases the way Ms. Ross uses poetry to intensify her images. Then in the next paragraph Sam adds to her observation, showing you how it feels to be outside of the SUV when she mentions, “And the cold. My God, the air is so cold I can barely breathe. The wind cuts through my down jacket with savage intensity, turning my skin to ice.” By combining these paragraphs, the author has solidly shown the haunting elements the characters have just begun to encounter.
We Don’t Belong Here
The last example shows the start of the plot’s intensity exponentially increasing, and it’s just chapter five! By page 63, the stuck high schoolers trek to find help, and it’s during this trek that Sam reveals the pending doom Mother Nature is about to unleash. As they return to the SUV with some of the other characters, she realizes the weather is turning for the worst when she conveys that “the air around us turns thinner and colder the longer we walk… The air freezes every baby hair on my face, even the little ones inside my nose. I pull my scarf tight around my face, but it’s little comfort. I’d need a thousand scarves here to keep warm.” This description makes you feel the shiver as if the words could drop the temperature wherever you’re reading this novel. Not only does it make you feel the cold, but the next paragraph increases the tension of walking under darkening clouds as you see the mountains through Sam’s eyes, how they “turn deathly quiet other than the sounds of wind and our footsteps. No more birds chirping. No insects buzzing. It’s so sterile and strange, like a frozen alien planet. I knew we were screwed, but I didn’t realize until right now just how badly. I can’t help but feel an immediate sense of danger as a dreadful thought forms in my head: We don’t belong here.” This part was written with such precision, making you universally feel the increase of tension regarding the environment, causing you to become immensely curious about how this is all going to turn out.
After reading the last page, it had me staring off into space; I didn’t know what to do. I wanted more story! The ending made me want to learn more about the characters’ aftermath. It’s so hard not to write about the amazing way Rektok tied it all together at the end. But that’s the author’s writing gift on display because without that you’d just read the end and move on. The entire last third of the book will have you reading at a breakneck pace since you’ll love the characters. Chapter 16’s intensity will blow you away. The beauty of chapter 21’s ending, combined with the start of chapter 22, will have you more hooked than ever. Just like The Breakfast Club, there’s a character for everyone to love in Ski Weekend.
Rektok Ross wrote such a badass white-knuckle type of story, you won’t want to let it go. It’s amazing how she created a novel with so much depth, it’ll grip you like a desperate hand trying to hold on while the person’s eyes widen, fearing the inevitable drop. Ski Weekend is a must-read. No wonder it’s in the works to be a movie.
Thank you for reading our book review about Ski Weekend by Rektok Ross. We are not affiliated with the publisher, but here’s the link to pick up a copy.
E. R. Sanchez is the author of Fried Potato Press’ first young adult thriller, Petaco Dreams, which will be released fall 2023. He also has poems and stories published online and in print. If you’d like to read his work that was published online, please click here to go to his Stories and Poetry Section.