(1989) is a middle-grade outdoor adventure thriller by American author Peg Kehret. Twelve-year-old Molly Neuman’s summer vacation to her aunt’s llama farm takes a dangerous turn when she encounters a cruel thief and must save both her cousin, Glendon, and herself from a deadly avalanche. As Molly struggles to rescue Glendon, she learns to overcome her fears and find her own inner strength. In Nightmare Mountain
, Kehret explores themes of courage, the importance of family, and the meaning of friendship.
Molly is excited to spend a month with her Aunt Karen and new Uncle Phil and his son, Glendon, who is Molly’s age. Aunt Karen and Uncle Phil live on a ranch in rural Washington state located at the foot of Mount Baker. There they raise llamas and run a Christmas tree farm on land that was originally going to be a ski resort. The family uses the ski lift to haul supplies to their llamas in the upper mountain pasture.
Molly is glad to see tall, smiling Aunt Karen and immediately likes big, bushy-bearded, cheerful Uncle Phil. Molly is amazed to find that there is snow on Mount Baker. Living in Los Angeles all her life, Molly has only seen snow once before. Molly shares some chocolate chips cookies that she baked and meets the family dog, Buckie, a collie-German shepherd mix. She teaches Bucky to play a hide-and-find game. Uncle Phil takes her to meet Merrylegs, a gentle llama who is due to give birth any day. Molly is happy until Glendon comes home from school. Glendon seems to hate her on sight. When Molly and Buckie accidentally break one of his model ships, Molly realizes she and Glendon are not going to get along.
Aunt Karen suddenly develops breathing trouble and slips into a coma. Uncle Phil sends Molly out to flag down the ambulance. Noticing that the gate is already open, Molly spies a light in the barn. When Molly returns to close the gate after the ambulance whisks Aunt Karen to the hospital, she is almost run over by a pickup truck running with its headlights off.
Sheriff Donley arrives the next day to collect samples of what the family ate for dinner: he thinks Karen may have been poisoned. Glendon insinuates that Molly is responsible and that possibly her cod-liver-oil pills were poisoned. Glendon and Molly stay alone on the ranch while Uncle Phil remains with Aunt Karen in the hospital. Molly visits the barn and discovers that Merrylegs is missing. When Molly is injured by a falling bale of hay, she begins to think that Glendon is trying to kill her. Molly doesn’t understand why Glendon hates her so much. Glendon blames her for everything bad that has happened and sullenly, and mysteriously, declares that Molly is just like Gladys.
Molly hikes up Mount Baker and observes a black pickup truck in the pasture. A man who looks like Uncle Phil without a beard is trying to lasso a llama. Molly runs to tell Glendon what she saw, but before she can contact the police, the man appears and captures Molly and Glendon. He forces them onto the ski lift, despite Molly’s fear of heights, and up to the upper pasture. He attempts to round up the llamas, saying that he is taking what belongs to him. Molly realizes that Glendon knows the man. The kids try to escape, but the man shoots his weapon. The sound from the gunshot triggers an avalanche. The man speeds down the mountain in his truck, leaving Molly and Glendon behind. The kids are swept up in the avalanche.
Molly is buried in the snow but managed to keep a pocket of air around her head. She digs herself out but cannot find Glendon. Molly rushes down the mountain and returns with Buckie, who locates Glendon. They dig Glendon out, but his arm is broken, and he is unconscious. Molly is not strong enough to drag him to the ski lift, so they huddle with Buckie for warmth overnight. Molly returns to the house to get help but encounters the llama thief again. He takes Molly hostage and she convinces him to steal more llamas, suggesting that she get Buckie to help herd them. The man is not completely rational and agrees. Molly returns to Glendon and Buckie on the mountain. Glendon explains that the thief is his Uncle Craine. He thanks Molly for saving him and says that she is not like Gladys after all.
At the house, Molly tries to call the sheriff, but Craine had cut the telephone line before leaving. Molly makes a harness for Buckie who drags Glendon to the ski lift and safely home. Glendon shares that Gladys was his twin sister, whom his mother doted on. Glendon’s mother told him she didn’t love him, and he was the reason she divorced Phil. Glendon’s mother left with Gladys and Glendon never heard from her again. The excitement Aunt Karen showed when Molly arrived made Glendon think she was like Gladys. Glendon tells Molly that Craine is Uncle Phil’s brother who helped start the llama business but cheated Uncle Phil. Craine was recently released from prison for theft.
Molly and Glendon hear sirens approaching. Craine returns to the ranch, pursued by Sheriff Donley. He breaks into the house and holds Glendon at gunpoint. Molly throws a mug at Craine’s head and sics Buckie on Craine, just as a gun goes off.
In the hospital, Molly recovers from minor frostbite. Glendon is healing from a broken arm, hypothermia, and some torn ligaments. Aunt Karen is also on the mend. The cookies Molly baked had peanuts in them, which triggered Aunt Karen’s severe peanut allergy. All the stolen llamas—including Merrylegs’s new baby—are returned. Buckie is also safe. Molly’s mom is flying out to join them. Molly looks forward to the summer and being better friends with Glendon.