Friday, June 8, 2012

Book in Review: Tyler's Mountain Magic by Malcolm Ater



Blue Ridge Mountain Books


Although Tyler Moore was plagued by cystic fibrosis since early childhood, he refused to allow the progressive illness to disrupt his ambition of excelling at sports. Ater's "Tyler's Mountain Magic" is the story of how Tyler took his little junior high school and the town of Harpers Ferry on the most magical sports ride in West Virginia history.

Ater describes Tyler's unwillingness to quit at anything. As a youngster, he had wrestled in the county youth league for two years and never won a match. But in the seventh grade, he won his last match of the season to help defeat the county's other junior high school for the first time in 25 years, finally ending the "curse" of John Brown. The following year Tyler became the glue that held the team together when a season-ending cheating scandal rocked the entire county and divided the people.

By the time he was a ninth grader, Tyler had an impossible dream: he and his friends on Blue Ridge Mountain were going to become the only team in West Virginia public school history to win 40 games or matches in a single season, in any sport. Ater chronicles the 3,000-mile journey around the state as the boys work to accomplish something that people said could never be done. Readers experience the drama and sacrifice that Tyler and his teammates make as the cheating scandal from the previous year is rekindled and their coaches talk of resigning over the county's lack of ethical standards in sports.

"Even though 10 or 15 years ago many children with cystic fibrosis did not live into adulthood, Tyler was not afraid of dying," Ater says. "He wanted his life to stand for something while he still had time."

Today at the entrance to Harpers Ferry, there is no sign honoring John Brown or his infamous raid that ignited the Civil War, but there is a sign honoring a teenage boy who brought an impossible dream to his small town.

It was named by the West Virginia Writers, Inc. as the Best Book Length Story in 2011

Why I Read This:

There was that underdog feel to it and the fact it was based on a true story made me curious.


I'm pretty sure it's safe to say this not the type of book I would normally seek out. First of all it's a book about sports. It's not just about kids who play sports, it's also about the sport itself. Then you throw in that cover which while eye-catching screams "boy book" to me. Then you add the fact that this is a true story and seems to be one that is very specific to a little town in West Virginia.

So how did this little book win me over?

First of all, I felt like the story was very powerful. It's a fictionalized version of events but at the same time the narrator felt very real, which brought that "inspired by a true story" aspect to light at the turn of every page. I was constantly reminded with the voice of the narrator that Tyler Moore was a real person and one that made a huge impact in his community.

Then you have the characters. Tyler and his gang were actually pretty sweet. Yes, some of them do some pretty stupid things but this always gives Tyler a reason to encourage them or learn from what has happened. Tyler was always encouraging the guys in the wrestling team and the things he says are so amazing. I couldn't imagine anyone that age being so insightful but it suited him so well and made me want to give him a hug.

The coaches were absolutely amazing. I loved watching the little riffs with Mecklenberg and seeing them stand up for what was right. I can say with absolute certainty that the coaches were the characters that kept me reading. They really were remarkable and for the first time I saw how important team sports are - how they can be life changing instead of just for fun when you have you the right people encouraging you and standing by their principles.

Tyler's Mountain Magic was one of those books that could have gone either way. I could have hated it, because to be honest that realistic voice I was talking about gave too many details about some things and not enough about others. It lost me in some places and made me keep reading in others. I wish I had more scenes with Tyler outside of the wrestling games, for example. But in the end it won me over because of it's message, it's voice, it's charactes, and ultimately Tyler.

My Rating:


I received a free e-copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. You are so right! Tyler's Mountain Magic is a wonderfully inspiring book. The fact that it is a true story makes it even more inspiring.

  2. Thanks for the comment Lauren. I'm glad someone agrees :) Inspiring is definitely the right word, not just for the story but for Tyler himself.