Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson.
Random House: NY, 2007.

Disgruntled by his mom's consideration of a marriage proposal, Tom knocks foam packaging over the cliff by his house. His mom sends him down into the valley to retrieve it. After he rescues it from the trees along the river, he is inspired to try floating down the river. It works, and he is lulled to sleep, only to be awakened when he hits rapids. He's sucked under a rock and pulled along what turns out to be an underground river, which passes through caves within the mountain. On an island in one of the caves, Tom discovers a dead body from which he takes handy supplies. No food, though, so he is compelled to try his luck in the river again. He ends up in the net of someone else trapped in the caves, someone trapped for three years inside the mountain.

Meanwhile, up on the ridge, Tom's mother is desperate for help finding Tom. She feels he is not dead and suspects he may be lost within the mountain. The worst possible people step forward to search, treasure hunters.

Through Tom's experience, he learns why his dad disappeared three years ago. He's given a chance for closure, education, and a dose of growing up all at once.

One of the themes in the book is related to the treasure hunting, but is also a different take on history in the Americas. I don't know how much proof is available yet, but it is a theory discussed more and more, one that makes sense and likely has some truth to it.

Wilson's first novel is a great survivalist adventure mixed with history and mystery. I like the split story, above and below ground, but Tom's story is the best part. That, and the dog that links them both. It is a well balanced story - humorous, creative, with anticipation running high.

related-missing persons, caves, adventures and adventurers, mothers and sons, buried treasure, archaeology, survival, explorers, exploration of and inhabitants of the Americas

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