The Hill Reviews
The White Ravens Catalogue
“There are many reasons why Jared and Kyle should never be friends: different backgrounds (affluent white urban single child vs Indigenous youngster living at a camp) and different values (fashion and coolness vs family bonding and respect for the elders). But since a plane crash left Jared stranded in the bush, he has to rely on Kyle’s survival skills. The worst part: Jared’s trusty mobile phone isn’t any help. So he ignores Kyle’s warnings and climbs a sacred hill to get reception. That infuriates Wîhtiko, a terrifying monster from Cree legend. It will take more than bush wisdom to survive. Mutual respect is the only power that can save the teenagers. Award-winning author Karen Bass skillfully combines survival drama, mystery, thriller, and Cree mythology to craft a fast-paced fantasy novel well anchored in the real world. At once a gripping read and an ethnographic study, The Hill successfully transcends didacticism. (Age: 12+)”
Read the review on page 22 of the 2016 White Ravens Catalogue
School Library Journal
“After the private plane Jared is flying in crashes in the wilderness, the first person to reach him is another teen, Kyle, a member of the Cree nation. Desperate to use his cell phone, Jared insists on climbing a hill, though Kyle warns him against it. Kyle ends up going with Jared to protect him. Both boys are thrown into a spirit world; they are pursued by the Wîhtiko, a flesh-eating monster and occasionally helped by the trickster Wolverine as they attempt to find their way back to their own world with Kyle’s grandmother’s prayers as guidance. Along the way, stereotypes are confronted and the boys become tentative buddies in their fight for survival. Told mostly from Jared’s perspective, the narrative shows his personal growth as he follows Kyle’s lead to stay alive. The boys realize that in order to return to their world they must stop the Wîhtiko—or die trying. In the notes, the author explains her use of the Cree language and legends and discusses the individuals with whom she consulted when using them. Kyle often serves as a guide for Jared and helps him realize his own biases, a trope often found in literature. The writing is descriptive and fast-paced, with an impending sense of dread overshadowing everything as the boys try to outrun and outwit the Wîhtiko. VERDICT: A survival and buddy story with broad appeal for tweens and teens.”
—Tamara Saarinen, Pierce County Library, WA
“The crash landing of his father’s private jet in the Canadian wilderness leaves rich white kid Jared stunned and the pilot badly injured, but it soon becomes clear that those are the very least of the 15-year-old’s problems. Kyle, a Cree boy of the same age, comes to Jared’s aid but isn’t able to stop him from climbing up a tall hill that’s forbidden for the Cree to visit in hopes of getting a cell signal. Going up there literally opens a world of trouble. That world they unwittingly step into is inhabited by Wîhtiko, a legendary Cree creature that is large, strong, terrifying-looking, and determined to eat the two boys. Thus begins a four-day chase through the deep woods, with little food and growing peril. Wesakechak, a shape-shifting Cree trickster, provides occasional help, but mostly the boys are dependent upon Kyle’s well-honed woodland skills, as Jared finds that his modern tools have little to offer away from the grid. The cultural tension between the two boys is prolonged, but eventually, after Jared uses one of his few skills to save them, they make a lasting peace. The pace is relentless, the amply creepy threat is believable, and the setting is fully realized. There is enough Native American culture to add welcome flavor and depth; Bass, not Cree herself, explains her cultural and linguistic research in an author’s note. Suspenseful, fast-paced, and hard to put down. (Adventure. 11-18)”
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School Library Connection
“…There are some horror story qualities to this novel. Some of the Cree culture is explained, especially in terms of their beliefs about the spirit world and legends. This is an engaging adventure story about two boys on the verge of manhood. Recommended.”
Quill & Quire Editor’s Choice
“Alberta-based Geoffrey Bilson Award-winning author Karen Bass draws on the Cree legend of the Wîhtiko for her latest YA novel, which blends adventure, horror, and some good old-fashioned coming-of-age wisdom. En route to spend the summer with his mining-executive father in Yellowknife, 15-year-old Jared Fredrickson’s private jet crashes in a remote swamp in Northern Alberta. He regains consciousness as a rescuer enters the scene—Kyle Badger, a Cree teen (also 15) who happened to be nearby and saw the plane go down. After bandaging the unconscious pilot’s bleeding head (there are no other passengers or crew), Kyle helps Jared out of the wreckage, and the latter convinces the former to climb a nearby hill in the hopes of getting some cellphone reception and calling for help. Kyle is more than reluctant. His Kokum (grandmother) has always warned him to stay away from the hill, which is said to be cursed. But Jared is insistent, and the two boys set off on a quest that will lead them straight into the path of mortal danger. Jared and Kyle could not be more different. Raised in Edmonton by extremely wealthy parents (now divorced), Jared wants for nothing. He is small in stature and obsessed with material goods; he worries more about his damaged laptop than the injured pilot. He also has zero survival skills. Kyle, on the other hand, is the size of a large adult man, shares a small home with his grandparents and younger brother, and is obviously comfortable in the wilderness. It quickly becomes clear that Jared doesn’t stand a chance of surviving without Kyle’s help, though the two don’t exactly hit it off. Kyle sees Jared as a spoiled, oblivious white kid, while Jared considers Kyle an overbearing bully who uses his size as an intimidation tool. The racial tension runs high, with Jared making ignorant—though not necessarily ill-intentioned—comments about aboriginals and Kyle referring to Jared as Moniyaw. ‘[It] isn’t an insult. It just means white man,’ says Kyle when Jared’s temper flares at the perceived slight. ‘And if I called you ‘brown man,’ you’d flatten me,’ responds Jared. The dynamic between the boys is the best part of the narrative, and will open many readers’ eyes to the issues of race, class, and privilege. Neither Kyle nor Jared are bad kids, but they both have faults, and their process of figuring those out and coming to terms with them comprises the bulk of the story not dealing with their bigger problem: the Wîhtiko. Bass does an excellent job of bringing together the elements of her novel, successfully weaving the supernatural thread into what would be a challenging situation for the boys even without it. Their climb up the hill releases the Wîhtiko from its lair and traps them in a parallel dimension where monsters and figures from legend are real, and the boys’ world—including the crashed plane and Kyle’s family—is rendered inaccessible by a strange fog that allows them to see, but not cross over. The mismatched pair learns to rely on each other as they scramble through the wilderness for days, trying to outrun an advancing forest fire as well as the monster that threatens to eviscerate them. The description of the beast as a ‘vaguely human, skeletal creature’ with a gaping-hole mouth, pieces of lip flapping against its bony chin, and bloody stubs for fingers is certainly nightmarish, but Kyle and Jared’s encounters with the creature aren’t overly scary for the reader. Jared’s terror is convincingly portrayed, however…”
Canadian Children’s Book News
“When the private jet that Jared is aboard crashes in Northern Alberta, Jared is ‘rescued’ by a Cree teenager who’s spending the summer with his grandparents and younger brother at their summer camp. The plane’s pilot is badly injured and there seems to be no way for Jared to make contact with the outside world, his computer smashed beyond repair and his cellphone without reception. There’s a big hill nearby, and Jared is sure that if they can just get to the top, he’ll get a signal, but Kyle warns Jared that climbing that hill is dangerous. His Kokum, his grandmother, has warned Kyle to stay away from the hill; it is haunted by evil spirits. But Jared won’t listen and, having mounted the summit, the boys suddenly find themselves in an alternative reality faced with a Windigo, a cannibalistic evil spirit that begins to pursue them through the wilderness. And this is not just any Windigo, but the Wîhtiko. Karen Bass has created a riveting novel that beautifully blends a fast-paced adventure with a wonderfully creepy horror story, using First Nations’ mythology to tie the two stories together. What is particularly striking is not only the way that Bass weaves the cannibal-hunting Wîhtiko into the story but also the one mythological figure who has defeated this creature, Wesakechak, the Cree trickster, who helps the teens out. Bass not only makes readers see the limitations of settler society’s understanding of First Nations’ cultures and traditions but she also allows her First Nations teenager to learn something from his interaction with Jared. The Hill is a novel about making connections, finding ways to work together and be mutually respectful in terms of interpersonal relationships and different cultures. Bass provides readers with a glimpse into how she approached using Cree mythology in an excellent author’s note.” —Jeffrey Canton
Award-Winning Author Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
“…Karen Bass anchors the fantasy element with such gritty, sore and smelly reality and such nail-biting terror that the reader has no choice but to be hooked. I read this novel in a single long gulp because I could not put it down. And after I was finished, it stayed on my mind. A phenomenal page-turner. Love the premise. Love the writing. Don’t read this book in bed.” —Marsha Skrypuch Click here to read the full review
“…The blend of realism and mythology is a difficult mix to pull off, but Bass succeeds admirably. The Hill is an interesting and unique addition to the ever-expanding body of teenaged wilderness survival novels. This is a popular genre for writers and readers, but the added elements of Cree traditional beliefs and cross-cultural tensions help Bass establish her own niche within this field.” Click here to read the full review
The Globe and Mail
“The hills are ripe for horror: Wes Craven’s hills had eyes, and Karen Bass’s is home to a supernatural serial hunter drawn from the Cree legend of the Wîhtiko. When Jared’s plane crashes in the Alberta wilderness, he is saved by a Cree teenager named Kyle. It’s a triple-edged survival story with Jared and Kyle facing down their cultural differences, the elements and the scary Wîhtiko…this Hatchet meets Lost tale is presented in a way that’s suitable for the younger end of the YA spectrum. And, really, it’s impossible to stop reading to see if anyone gets eaten.” Click here to read the full review
“Jared is flying in a private jet to visit his father’s diamond mine in the NorthWest Territories when the plane crashes. In his expensive sneakers and “raw” jeans, Jared is totally unprepared for surviving in desolate Northern Alberta. Fortunately Kyle Badger, a Cree teen, is camping nearby and comes to the rescue. After providing first aid for the injured pilot, Kyle tries to get Jared to return to his grandparents’ camp. But Jared insists on climbing a nearby hill, seeking cell phone service. Kyle tells him that the hill is culturally taboo, but Jared refuses to listen. When they reach the top, there is of course no cell service. Instead the boys enter an alternate reality, a spirit world in which their action releases the Wîhtiko (aka Wendigo). The next two hundred pages are an adrenaline-filled fight for survival, where Jared and Kyle only manage to succeed due to Kyle’s wilderness training and the intervention of Wesakechak, the trickster. This novel has many of the threats of wilderness survival fiction, including quicksand pits, forest fires, and dangerous animals. The inclusion of the indigenous mythological characters is a brilliant addition, and creates truly frightening scenarios. But the best part of this book is the interplay between the two main characters. Jared is the spoiled city kid, and Kyle the tough outdoorsy one, but they are both so much more than the stereotypes would suggest. For example, Kyle advises Jared, “Sometimes scared is the smartest thing you can be.” (p. 29) Only through the combination of their knowledge and skill, and respect for each other’s contribution, are they able to return the Wîhtiko to its lair in The Hill. Thematic Links: Adventure; Wilderness Survival; First Nations Legends and Culture Rating: G” —Patricia Jermey
CanLit for LittleCanadians
“Karen Bass, the award-winning author of Graffiti Knight (Pajama Press, 2013) and Uncertain Soldier (Pajama Press, 2015), takes writing flight with The Hill, a chilling tale of endurance in northern Alberta, blending a survival story with the supernatural of Cree legends. It’s hauntingly gripping YA and I think it’s her best story yet. …In addition to a gripping action-rich plot of frightening circumstances, getting the voices of Jared and Kyle and the tone of the story right are Karen Bass’ greatest strengths in The Hill. She balances the heart-pumping pace of a looking-over-your-shoulder chase with the antagonistic sparring between Jared and Kyle. The two are so different in what they have, what they know, and who they are that it’s only fate in the form of a plane crash that could bring the two together.” —Helen Kubiw Click here to read the full review
The National Reading Campaign
“…Finding their common humanity despite their differences might be the hardest thing Kyle and Jared have ever done, as well as the most rewarding. Through a fantastical, yet modern and timely tale, Bass shows how the power of circumstance can bond even the most stubborn with life-changing results.” —Amy Mathers Click here to read the full review
“Bildungsroman abounds; Empathy is actualized; And Diversity is embraced. In addition to serving as an excellent choice for pleasure reading, English teachers may view The Hill as an outstanding candidate for class novel study.” —Lisa Brennan Click here to read the full review
Ramblings of a Daydreamer
“Jared’s plane has crashed in the Alberta wilderness, and Kyle is first on the scene. When Jared insists on hiking up the highest hill in search of cell phone reception, Kyle hesitates; his Cree grandmother has always forbidden him to go near it. There’s no stopping Jared, though, so Kyle reluctantly follows. After a night spent on the hilltop with no cell service the teens discover something odd: the plane has disappeared. Nothing in the forest surrounding them seems right. In fact, things seem very wrong. And worst of all, something is hunting them. Karen Bass, the multi-award-winning author of Graffiti Knight and Uncertain Soldier, brings her signature action packed style to a chilling new subject: the Cree Wihtiko legend. Inspired by the real story of a remote plane crash and by the legends of her Cree friends and neighbours, Karen brings eerie life or perhaps something other than life to the northern Alberta landscape in The Hill. My Thoughts Jared is used to getting his own way and getting whatever he wants. He’s dependent on technology and would rather relax in comfort in his designer clothes than do anything in the great outdoors. When his private plane crashes in the wilderness, the first person on the scene is a Cree teen named Kyle. Despite the fact Kyle tells Jared there’s no cell service nearby, Jared is determined that if he climbs the nearby hill, he’ll get reception. Kyle has always been warned away from the hill, but when Jared insists on going, Kyle knows he can’t let him go alone. Once they’ve climbed the hill, both boys quickly realize why Kyle was always told to stay away from the hill. The Hill isn’t a typical story of survival in the wilderness. The boys do need to fend for themselves, but there’s something far more sinister than wild animals and the elements in the forest – Jared and Kyle are being pursued by a Wihtiko, a Cree legend come to terrifying life. The pair need to learn to work together and overcome their differences in order to survive. The dynamics between the two were really interesting – they’re complete opposites and have nothing in common, but in a very short time and under extreme circumstances, they forge a strong bond. Jared especially learns a lot about himself through Kyle, which was interesting to see. The Hill was different from anything I’ve ever read. I loved that it was written by a Canadian author, set in Canada, and used a real Cree legend. I was also really happy to see a main character who was Native. This is so (unfortunately) rare that it actually made me ridiculously excited! The Hill is a creepy, paranormal twist on a survival story. It has great messages about privilege, stereotypes, and friendship. I’d particularly recommend it to fans of the TV show Supernatural – the Wihtiko is similar to the Wendigo, which Sam and Dean fought in season one.”
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“Another fabulous young adult book, The Hill was creepy – and kept me reading to the end.”
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Youth Services Book Review
“Rating: (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
…What did you like about the book? Rich, city kid Jared Frederickson’s private jet crashes in the marshes of Northern Alberta, Canada. He’s rescued by a young Cree, Kyle Badger. What could have been a run of the mill survival story is turned on its head when the two unknowingly enter another world inhabited by a Cree legend called a Wihtiko and it’s hunting them.
Kyle and Jared encounter the creature as well as a shapeshifter, and face some facts about themselves and each other along the way.
The excitement builds throughout the story and leaves the reader breathless.
The inclusion of Cree language and legends makes this story even more substantial and worth reading.
Mild language and bodily functions are mentioned.
Anything you didn’t like about it? No
To whom would you recommend this book? (Read-alikes if you can think of them) Fans of Hatchet, Spirit Bear and My Side of the Mountain will really like this story, as will readers of Native legends….”
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