Lost in the River of Grass
by Rorby, Ginny

When two Florida teenagers become stranded on a tiny island in the Everglades, they attempt to walk ten miles through swampland to reach civilization.

In this authentic survival adventure, Sarah, a 13-year-old scholarship student, leaves her preppy classmates on a weekend trip to the Everglades and takes off with Andy, 15, a kind local who offers her a brief guided tour in his airboat. After the boat sinks, they walk for three days through the swamp with little food and water-fighting off mosquitoes, snakes, and alligators-until, finally, helicopters rescue them. What comes through best here is not only the teens' courage and mutual support but also the realism of their fights and weaknesses, even in the small moments, as when he apologizes after he can't stop himself from guzzling all the Gatorade. Andy is white and ashamed that his dad flies the Confederate flag. Sarah, in turn, is ashamed when she loses it and calls Andy a backwoods redneck (she doesn't reveal that she is black until the very end). It's the identity questions as much as the taut rescue story that will resonate with readers. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Thirteen-year-old Sarah's new classmates at Glades Academy don't welcome her—she's there on scholarship, and her mother works in the school cafeteria. On a field trip to the Everglades, Sarah seizes the chance to get away by sneaking off on an airboat ride through the saw-grass marsh with the guide's 15-year-old son, Andy, taking only her backpack, a camera and some mosquito spray. A stop at a remote fishing camp ends in disaster when the boat sinks, and they're stranded, surrounded by alligators and snakes, with half a bottle of Gatorade and a can of SPAM. Andy knows what they're up against, but Sarah refuses to believe that they must leave the tiny island to trudge the 10 miles back to land. Wildlife and vegetation are vividly described; Sarah's fear is palpable in scenes of near-disaster, and readers will cheer when she and Andy make it safely out of the swamp after five days. However, the first-person narrative is uneven, marred by gaps that make it hard to fully visualize some situations, and there are too few transitions to support some rather sudden instances of closeness between Sarah and Andy. Rorby cleverly offers only subtle hints that Sarah is African-American and Andy is white until late in the story, adding depth to this survival story framed within the story of an outsider. (Adventure. 12-14)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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