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BOOKS: Girl shows leadership in intense adventure

Peggy Eddleman creates intense adventure in “Skyjumpers” as 12-year-old Hope takes risks to save her family and her home in post World War III Nebraska. (Photo submitted)

By Jean Patrick

Republic Book Columnist

Bomb’s Breath is nothing to mess with. If you take even one breath of it, you’ll die.

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Yet Hope’s town of Cook, Neb., is surrounded by this invisible air. It’s leftover from the green bombs of World War III.

“Skyjumpers,” by Peggy Eddleman, is about 12-year-old Hope, a girl who takes risks. In fact, she jumps off cliffs — through pockets of Bomb’s Breath — because she loves the feeling of being temporarily held by the pressurized air.

Too bad her town doesn’t value her risktaking ability. Since everything has been destroyed, the community only values people who can invent.

But this changes when bandits use mine tunnels to enter the town. They round up the citizens, shoot Hope’s dad in the leg, and threaten to kill unless the citizens give them their most valuable possession — the entire supply of antibiotics.

Hope knows there is only one way to save her dad and rescue the town. She must get past the bandits, hike through the Bomb’s Breath and brave a blizzard to contact the guards in a neighboring town.

Author Peggy Eddleman packs nonstop, life-and-death adventure into the second half of the story as Hope and her three friends attempt the impossible. Even after they find the guards, they must dodge bullets from grown men.

Meanwhile, “Skyjumpers” works on another level. Throughout the story, Hope gradually realizes that risk-taking isn’t her only ability. She’s a leader. In fact, Hope’s mom senses this long before she does. She says, “You find yourself in any situation and instantly know what to do.”

Even though “Skyjumpers” celebrates a girl for risk-taking and leadership, other parts of the book present traditional gender roles. Although there are exceptions, women tend to bake the pies while the men join the guards or invent machines to plant crops.

But this throw-back is a minor part of an otherwise outstanding book. If you’re looking for an original story with intense adventure and meaningful self-discovery, this is the one.

“Skyjumpers.” By Peggy Eddleman. Random House, 2013, 288 pp.