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Letters About Literature National Winners 2012

National Honor Winner, Level 2: Everest Fang - Cottonwood Heights, UT

Dear Mr. Krakauer:

My name is Everest Fang. It is a unique name and I have received numerous comments about it throughout my lifetime. The unique flare of my name eventually became a big part of my life. Nowadays, I can always anticipate people's reactions when I tell them "My name is Everest Fang". They will often compliment me and tell me how cool it is; some will crack incredibly "punny" jokes. I cannot imagine life with a different, more common name. People have frequently asked me how I received my unusual name. That's where you come in.

Back when my mother was still pregnant with me, my parents were in the process of choosing a name for their soon-to-be son. At the time, my father was also in the process of reading your book, Into Thin Air. When one reads a book or watches a movie, the ideas and events of the narrative tend to linger on the mind of the reader or viewer. Such was the case with my father and the novel was still very much on his mind as he worked to find a name for me. As a result, the events of your book and the task at hand were mixed together in my father's mind. That's when he made the decision of naming me "Everest".

Because the decision of what to name me stemmed from your book and my name has played a large role in my life, it could be said that your book changed my life before I was even born. Naturally, once I gained the ability to read, I became curious about the book that gave me my name. So, once Saturday afternoon, I picked it off our book shelf and began reading.

While I have never been an obsessive reader nor had an animosity towards books, I have always made a point of reading. My parents have always told me to read and that being a skilled reader will lead to me being a skilled writer and that being a skilled writer will lead to my success. But, like so many children my age, I generally prefer fiction over non-fiction. In fact, until personal curiosity drew me to your book, I had never previously read a non-fiction piece of literature unless it was required for school.

My view of non-fiction was completely altered once I read your book. I discovered that many people today underestimate the thrilling adventures that exist in real life. I was kept reading by the anticipation of what would occur next. I was enraptured by the adventure of conquering one of life's most difficult challenges. I could feel the harsh, stinging cold tearing at the climbers' nerves; I was crushed at the loss of another climber; I felt the allure the coveted peak had on all those who set out to face it; I felt the heavy weight of fatigue collapse on me after another strenuous effort. Your book created a vivid experience that not only led me through an incredible adventure but also shed new light on the meaning of my name.

The adrenaline and excitement that filled me from reading of this adventure left me hungry for more. Both the horrible losses and the courageous rescue efforts left me on the brink of tears. The thrills of adventure in real-life were revealed to me. My name now bursts with new meaning and inspiration. It represents the courage, hardships and unstoppable human spirit of all those who have embarked on the adventure that is Mount Everest. Your novel has inspired me to live up to the values my name embodies.

Everest Fang