Avalanche by M. Liz Boyle (Off the Itinerary; #1)

Book Blurb:

Excitement hangs in the air as Marlee, her two sisters and their friends prepare for a daring trip up a Colorado mountain—in the middle of the night—without their parents’ permission. However, these teens and pre-teens are more prepared than most for such a thrilling adventure. Having grown up taking trips to the mountains every summer their whole lives, they’ve learned a thing or two about hiking. Nevertheless, when disaster strikes, their knowledge will be put to the test. Will their friendship survive the risky situation they’ve put themselves in or will they cave under pressure?

I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own.


It’s been a hot minute since I’ve read a Christian teen fiction novel. While there are a few that impacted me growing up, many were cheesy, unrelatable or boring. It’s very, very hard to write a captivating, but clean teen fiction novel, so I was nervous to read Avalanche. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised! The story in these 220 pages take place in the span of about 4 days, give or take. I rarely read books that take place over such a short period of time, but I enjoyed the intensity of it. Toward the beginning of the story, an avalanche takes place and immediately Marlee, her sisters, and their friends are thrown into a life or death situation. Once the falling snow subsides, the question becomes “how are they going to survive long enough to be found?”

While I have hiked in the general sense up and down a few places in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I guess I can’t say I’ve ever really hiked since I had absolutely none of the gear or skills these kids had. Through the characters’ experiences, Boyle gave us a glimpse into the “what to do and what not do” involved in hiking up mountains. I enjoyed learning about hiking gear and what each piece was for as well as different techniques to stay warm, patch someone’s injuries up temporarily or what to eat so you could last until the next real meal. I also enjoyed watching the teens discuss different options in moving forward and how they managed to work together as a team.

I was pulled into the story by the very real sense of danger they were in. Being stranded during an avalanche meant they had to face things like extremely cold temperatures, lack of food and water, injuries, etc. The teens went back and forth between arguing and trying to work out a plan, which felt realistic. I appreciated the straightforward, smooth writing style and good pacing.

However, there were a few aspects of the story that didn’t feel very realistic to me. The major one was the dialogue. For whatever reason their dialogue felt very formal and un-teen-esque. There was no slang and it just didn’t feel natural. A lot of their conversations felt like the way we’re supposed to write essays. It usually started with a detailed question and was usually followed by the proper response. The way Marlee always tried to center the team back to God and Scripture was admirable, but very jarring. She seemed to feel as if the goal of every conversation was to make sure Jesus was at the center of it, which again, sounds nice in theory, but on paper, makes for some very awkward conversations. About three-fourths of the way through the book, I began to wonder if this was the way Boyle imagined or wished her teenage children would speak to each other as they pursued Christ in an ideal situation. It felt very much like this was the way teenagers “should” talk, but in actuality, they don’t. We all know that one: no one is perfect and we all make mistakes, but also two: that conversations naturally revolve around the current situation and Jesus isn’t always at the forefront of our minds.

Unfortunately, this made Marlee difficult to relate to. Their friends fought to keep calm and speak respectfully to each other. Her older sister struggled not to lose her temper and her younger sister struggled not to give in to fear. Everyone around Marlee had some relatable character trait, excepting Marlee herself. She would recall different instances in the past when she had struggled with her emotions, but we never witnessed that in their current situation. Besides the initial avalanche, she was relatively calm throughout the entire experience. We all know people who keep calm under pressure, at least on the outside, but we all wonder what’s going on in their heads, on the inside. I wish Marlee had a more distinct flaw or inner battle within her thoughts so she could have been more relatable to readers.

All that aside, Boyle’s characters were funny, witty and perseverant. I admired the way they innovatively found solutions to every problem within the general predicament they were in. The ending was satisfactory and made me wonder what their next adventure together would be now that they had found a way to productively communicate with each other (i.e., argue less 😉 ).


In conclusion, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was a fun, clean, easy read and very different than what I usually pick up and learn about! I recommend it to teens who enjoy mild thrillers and the out of doors or who just enjoy reading about teens pursuing Christ’s holiness in their lives (amid some pretty crazy circumstances, of course!).

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