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1 rating
list price: $15.95
also available: eBook
category: Children's Fiction
published: Mar 2016
publisher: Pajama Press Inc.

The Hill

by Karen Bass

tagged: survival stories, native american, horror & ghost stories, thrillers & suspense

Seeking cell phone reception after a remote plane crash, city kid Jared and local Kyle scale a hill that Kyle’s Cree grandmother has forbidden him to climb. Coming down the next day, the boys find that the plane has disappeared, the forest has changed, and something is hunting them. A modern imagining of the Cree Wîhtiko legend.

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 Wîhtiko 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.


About the Author
Karen Bass is a multi-award-winning author of novels for young adult readers. Graffiti Knight won the CLA Young Adult Book Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People, the R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature, and the CAA Exporting Alberta Award. Formerly the library manager in Hythe, Alberta, Karen now lives and writes in Hamilton, Ontario.
Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
12 to 18
7 to 12
  • Long-listed, Rocky Mountain Book Award for Fiction
  • Short-listed, Red Maple Fiction Award
  • Long-listed, OLA Best Bets honourable mention
  • Short-listed, Snow Willow Award
  • Long-listed, YA Sunburst Award
  • , Best Books for Kids & Teens selection
  • Commended, White Ravens Selection
  • Short-listed, Junior Library Guild selection
Editorial Review

Praise for The Hill

2017 Red Maple Fiction Award shortlist

2017 Snow Willow Award shortlist

2016 White Ravens selection

2017 YA Sunburst Award longlist

2018 Rocky Mountain Book Award for Fiction longlist

2017 OLA Best Bets honourable mention

2016 Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens selection

2016 Junior Library Guild selection

"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. A survival and buddy story with broad appeal for tweens and teens."—School Library Journal

"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...Suspenseful, fast-paced, and hard to put down."—Kirkus Reviews

"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."—The White Ravens catalogue

"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."—Resource Links Magazine

"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....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."—Quill & Quire

"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...the added elements of Cree traditional beliefs and cross-cultural tensions help Bass establish her own niche within this field."—CM Magazine

"[T]his 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."—The Globe and Mail

"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."—The National Reading Campaign

"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."—Canadian Children's Book News

"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."—School Library Connection

"Bass tells a riveting story of survival and friendship, staying true to the real Cree legend that has been passed down for generations....Bass does a wonderful job of setting the scene for the novel and describing the landscape, particularly the forest. The author also adds an educational value to the book by demonstrating basic survival skills...Overall, a wonderful story for anyone looking for a thrill and to learn something new."—Brigham Young University, Children's Book & Media Reviews

"Bass uses evocative metaphors, and exquisite descriptive prose to establish a strong sense of place; short simple sentences heighten the sense of terror and suspense; her characters are well-developed through realistic dialogue and actions. Tolerance, respect, loyalty, and spirituality are themes for students to explore in this Young Adult novel."—ALSC LitPicks

"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...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."—Youth Services Book Review

"[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."—CanLit for LittleCanadians

"A plane crash launches a gripping story of survival and mystery in The Hill by Karen Bass. The award-winning author successfully weaves Cree mythology into the fast-paced adventure of two teens from vastly different worlds. Together, they learn that outwitting a creature from the spirit world is only possible with mutual respect."—Larry Loyie, author of When the Spirits Dance

"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."—Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, author of Making Bombs for Hitler

"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."—Ramblings of a Daydreamer

"There's myth, legend, shapeshifting and coming of age all wrapped together in this story....I have camped in the woods and had closer contact than I wanted with a bear. I sure wouldn't want to meet the monster in this story..."—Book Faerie

"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

"Another fabulous young adult book, The Hill was creepy – and kept me reading to the end."—Book Time



Top  Grade
Librarian review

The Hill

This novel will appeal to middle-grade readers who enjoy survival and mystery stories. Cree mythology is weaved into the adventure narrative, and the book tells a compelling story of creatures from the spirit world, at the same time as providing insight into Cree history and culture. This novel is ideal for teaching the significance of legend, narrative, and storytelling as inherent parts of human culture.

Source: Association of Canadian Publishers. Diversity Collection Selection 2017.

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